MacGruber (2010)

(In theatres, May 2010) Incompetent secret agents are fast approaching cliché after Johnny English, Get Smart, OSS-117 and many others, so MacGruber has a few other issues to worry about aside from its thin inspiration from Saturday Night Live sketches.  Sadly, what we get is a coarse, violent and generally unpleasant satire on the action-movie genre.  It’s not exactly terrible (it certainly earns its share of laughs), but it could have been quite a bit better.  MacGruber, played by SNL’s Will Forte, is not just incompetent but blustery, crass and with few redeemable qualities: He’s a full-time annoyance and sadly he’s in pretty much the entire movie.  Bland co-star Ryan Philippe does a bit better, although Kristen Wiig is so conventional in her portrayal of the obligatory love interest that I gladly would have seen her switch roles with the always-cute Maya Rudolph.  But character flaws aren’t the biggest of MacGruber’s problems, which betrays its SNL origins by padding 30 minutes’ worth of jokes into an hour and a half of lazy pacing, pauses for laughs and diminishing-returns call-backs to gags that weren’t funny in the first place.  (“I’ll do anything to get back on the case?”  Funny for ten seconds, not forty.  Celery?  Never funny.)  The direction is hampered by a low budget, which the disjoint editing seems to make even worse.  Fortunately, there is about one dumb laugh every ten minutes (how dumb?  Well, I was unexpectedly amused by subtitles on “You’re loco, man”), which still places MacGruber a cut above many other comedies out there.  It’s not a disaster, but the sense of missed opportunities here feels overwhelming.

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