After the deluge of unfocused Scary Movie/Date Movie parodies, green shoots of comedic recovery arrived in the form of last year’s witty blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite and this revival of Saturday Night Live character MacGruber, an ’80s action hero complete with body warmer, shades and a removable car stereo he carries around with him.
As with other SNL spin-offs, notably Wayne’s World, the results are patchy but often lively, benefiting from a game cast’s deadpan delivery of an astonishingly vulgar script. When pony-tailed playboy Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) steals a nuclear warhead and aims it at the White House, the US government reaches out to South American mountains, where ‘the ultimate tool’ MacGruber (Will Forte) has lived in semi-retirement for ten years, distraught over the death of his wife on their wedding day. Persuaded by his army buddy (Powers Boothe) to find the missing missile, MacGruber quickly allies himself with straight-laced CIA man Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and sultry romantic interest Vicki St Elmo (Kristen Wiig).
Jorma Taccone’s film is better at remounting clichés than deflating them, but rises to a few laugh-out-loud set-pieces including MacGruber’s homo-erotic team-building skills, unlikely decoys, and the best sex-scene since Team America, amusingly contrasting Top Gun pop-video aesthetics with bumping, grinding reality.
A dismal box-office flop in the US, MacGruber is a welcome return to the Airplane! tradition of dry cinematic observation leavened with crude, silly jokes; it’s likable, deliberately offensive style deserves a little more appreciation.
General release from Fri 18 Jun.