Let’s face it: character-based comedies get a bad rap. Too often, they devolve into interminable running jokes as the gag slowly chugs to a halt, unable to sustain itself over 90 minutes of movie. The best of these movies understand that they have to build a world around their characters that’s thematically consistent – it’s not enough to have Star X show up, kick out a few catchphrases and call it a day anymore. Saturday Night Live has been responsible for more of these abominations that just about anything else (The Ladies Man? A Night At The Roxbury?), so I’m happy to report that with MacGruber, they finally get it right.
Here’s the gimmick in a nutshell: MacGruber (played by Will Forte) is a be-mulleted action hero in the obvious MacGyver mold, an unironic Special Forces operative who has been out of action for ten years after the murder of his fiancee. When his nemesis, the ponytailed terrorist Dieter van Cunth, gets his hands on a nuclear bomb, MacGruber must walk the path of justice once more, aided by a crack team of operatives including Kristen Wiig as the love interest and Ryan Phillippe as the straight man.
No surprises here: MacGruber is a gleefully lowbrow comedy that isn’t afraid to go for the gusto. Will Forte shows his ass like a million times. But the childish tone actually meshes fairly well with the note-perfect recreation of 80s action flicks that director Jorma Taccone serves up. The vibe of the movie is always played as broadly as possible, and it works for the character. Those movies were proud of there simple, toddler morality – black was black, white was white, and the good guys always won in the end. And really, can you ask for anything more?