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When your first introduction to a titular character is a nostalgia-soaked montage detailing one man’s insatiable lust to create ‘life saving inventions out of household materials’ while he stands triumphantly atop the world blowing a golden saxophone sent straight from the heavens itself, you know and cannot deny that Jorma Taccone’s MacGruber is a real American hero. While your body twitches and your heartbeat spikes with excitement, ten years on from it’s initial release, all you can do is strap yourself in and enjoy this utterly ridiculous ride.
Tormented by the death of his lover at the hands of the nefarious super villain Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), it isn’t long before MacGruber (Will Forte) finds himself back in action with a serious score to settle. Cunth has come into possession of nuclear weaponry and MacGruber is the last resort to save this god-forsaken planet from total annihilation. As MacGruber so poignantly puts it, ‘your God can’t help you… but I can’.
Cue cheesy 80s pop classics and an array of infamous wrestling stars such as Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Kane and Mark Henry and MacGruber quickly gets to work on blowing up everything in his path, literally. Revenge is a dish best served cold and MacGruber will do anything he possibly can to ensure his calculative measures are ICE cold.
Born from the beloved Saturday Night Live sketch series of the same name, MacGruber was seen as nothing more than a silly slice of temporary entertainment for the masses to admire. The overall tone of the signature sketch was low-key and as beloved as it was, it never really attempted to bring MacGruber into bigger, more fantastical situations. Enter Jorma Taccone (one third of The Lonely Island crew) and MacGruber was elegantly adapted for the big screen at long last.
Critically bashed and misunderstood, MacGruber failed on almost every level, merely struggling to recoup its incredibly low budget of just ten million dollars on cinematic release. Considered one of the biggest flops of 2010, MacGruber only lasted three weeks in theaters before being removed entirely. From there, MacGruber quickly found a new surge of popularity once it hit DVD and Blu-Ray release but remained nothing more than a forgotten ‘what could have been’ scenario for most who had invested in the Saturday Night Live spin-off.
Truthfully, MacGruber is a misunderstood cult classic that suffered simply because it was released at the wrong time and struggled to connect with comedy fans towards the back end of the 2010’s. Similarly styled comedy hits like Anchorman (2004), Team America: World Police (2004) and Step Brothers (2008) were all consumed by the masses to positive effect but unfortunately, MacGruber came at the tail end of the 2010s when the spoof-esque comedy that had dominated the mainstream for many years was beginning to fade with a more serious (but still somewhat silly), heartfelt attention to comedy with movies like Due Date (2010) and Get Him To The Greek (2010) dominating the box office around the same time.
The Lonely Island’s involvement with MacGruber, just like their involvement with the extremely underrated, Hot Rod (2007) was also premature. The Lonely Island have enjoyed massive success over the last decade or so due to a number of contributing factors such as their commercial music success, Andy Samberg’s cult roles in the likes of Brooklyn Nine Nine and the Lonely Island’s critical praise for the superb, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) but unfortunately, back in the early 2000’s The Lonely Island just weren’t that big and certainly not big enough to propel a cult comedy to super stardom.
Had MacGruber been released a few years later and with a heightened advertisement campaign given the growing popularity of The Lonely Island at that time, it might have cemented its place as both a cult classic and an enormous success. But it wasn’t to be.
MacGruber, essentially born from a desire to spoof the classic 1980s TV show MacGyver, is as utterly ridiculous as it gets. Chocked full of one-liners, gratuitous cussing, unbearably awkward sex scenes and nonsensical set pieces and action segments resulting in outrageous laugh out loud moments, MacGruber belongs to the same family as the Naked Gun movies (1988-1994) or the Hot Shots movies (1991 – 1993).
In much the same vein as Hot Rod many years before it, MacGruber provides us with a lead character so damn moronic and unclassifiable that you can’t help but find it extremely infectious. Whether MacGruber is banging ghosts in graveyards, setting up ‘genious’ elaborate traps to distract his shocked foes or ripping out throats with zero compassion, MacGruber always walks a fine line between true cinematic overload and subtle execution of the utterly unfathomable. Jorma Taccone’s MacGruber is vulgar, absolutely ‘loco’, unashamedly over-the-top and ridiculously entertaining at times. And, unfortunately, for most this line of comedic construction can be difficult to delve into and appreciate.
In recent years there has been signficant talks of a sequel given MacGruber‘s cult evolution over the years but sadly, that sequel seems unlikely – although a TV spin-off is in development. Personally, I feel now would be the perfect time to release a MacGruber sequel given the massive success of The Lonely Island who seem determined to revisit the property and the return to similarly designed releases like Johnny English Strikes Again (2018) making massive profits on a relatively low budget. One loving MacGruber fan can simply hope and dream.
When the dust has settled and MacGruber emerges from the darkness equipped with his signature boombox and the razor sharp wit required to deter even the most hardened super villain, MacGruber is not the hero we deserve but simply the hero we need. We can keep dreaming of a sequel but one thing is for sure, just don’t get into a van with MacGruber anytime soon. You have been warned.