Film and TV

MacGruber Blows Up the '80s (Depending on How You Look at It)

Besides doing super-fun married stuff like yard work, going to Costco, and leaving the bathroom door open, New Times writers Laura Hahnefeld and Jay Bennett go to the movies.

​Laura: Have you even seen a "MacGruber" skit on Saturday Night Live?

Jay: I think I've seen one. And that was plenty. What am I missing?

Laura: C'mon, they're hilarious! Remember MacGyver from the '80s? As MacGruber, Will Forte spoofs Richard Dean Anderson's role as the rugged secret agent who gets out of jams using his scientific know-how and a few household items; but unlike in MacGyver, everyone in MacGruber gets killed at the end, thanks to MacGruber's never de-fusing an explosive device because he's dealing with life issues, most having to do with homosexuality.

Jay: Oh, I get it. It's another hey-remember-the-1980s-weren't-they-hysterical thing. MacGruber has to rank somewhere between Rob Schneider's copy guy and Tim Meadows' love DJ on the list of lamest SNL characters. That being said, I did laugh out loud twice during the MacGruber movie, which is exactly twice more than I thought I would. All things considered, I guess MacGruber was more amusing than it had any right to be. I heard you chuckle only a couple of times, too. What did you like so much about it?

Laura: Three things: 1) Will Forte as MacGruber and Kristen Wiig as teammate and love interest Vicki St. Elmo were the only two over-the-top characters -- everyone else played their roles straight, which added to the film's charm. 2) It was an R-rated adult comedy, not a PG-13 watered-down dumbfest, and 3) Although it did fall short in a couple of spots and at times I felt myself wanting more, there were enough laughs (including two biggies -- one involving sex and the other a funny plea from MacGruber to get Lieutenant Dixon Piper, played by Ryan Phillippe, to join his team) to make the thankfully short running time of 99 minutes go by fast. What were your beefs?

Jay: The movie felt like one of MacGruber's slapdash inventions -- thrown together on the cheap with very little holding it together. (Speaking of those inventions, they're an after-thought in this movie.) Unfortunately, MacGruber's a character I could neither consistently laugh at nor root for. And I sensed the filmmakers pretty much felt the same way -- about their own character. And Will Forte? Let's just say we've probably seen the last of him in a leading role. I agree that the film's "straight men" -- Val Kilmer as the evil madman bent on destroying Washington with a nuclear missile and Powers Boothe as the deadly serious Army general who brings MacGruber out of retirement for One Last Mission -- are more entertaining than the lead actors. Is this movie an homage to or a spoof of a particular breed of mean-spirited '80s action movies? I couldn't really tell. What do you think? 

Laura: I think it's MacGruber, not Raising Arizona. Once you get your head around that, you can take it for what it is and enjoy the ride. Think we won't see Will Forte again? Two words: Rob Schneider. I'm giving MacGruber a solid B rating. You?

Jay: I think you're being charitable, but okay, I know how much you love "funny" hairstyles in movies. MacGruber's hilariously uncomfortable sex scene bumped it up a letter grade -- to a C. But can we agree to let the '80s rest in peace? I hope so.  

Laura: You're right, Sweetie, I do love a funny hairstyle. It's one of the reasons I married you.

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett