MacGruber (Jorma Taccone). You might think a full-length feature about MacGruber, Will Forte’s bumbling ’80s action hero, would feel at least an hour too long. Even Steve Carell couldn’t lift his lumbering feature about Maxwell Smart, the ’60s version of MacGruber, off the ground—but maybe he needed Jorma Taccone at the controls.
Saturday Night Life actor/writer/director Taccone, one of the three guys who does those funny videos with Andy Samberg (he also shot a lot of the MacGruber shorts for SNL and is the man behind a Pepsi ad for the Super Bowl), has great sense of comic timing and a deep and gleeful knowledge of comedy conventions and pop-culture icons. In the Q&A after the film, he revealed that he loves late-’80s/early-’90s action movies like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon and Rambo 3 (“not one or two or four—though four is pretty great too”), and that he and his cast intended their movie to be more of a comic tribute than a spoof.
You probably have to love those movies to embrace this one fully, but for those of us who do, it makes for a wildly entertaining night at the movies. Action movie clichés, like the way people keep telling MacGruber, “I thought you were dead!,” are given just the right emphasis. You laugh at the dick jokes and gay jokes too, partly because they’re cathartic, surfacing and then blowing up all the unacknowledged homoerotic machismo that fuels those movies, but also because Forte does blustery incompetence so well and the editors always know just where to cut. And Michael Bay has taken things so far that you pretty much have to chase your bad guy off a cliff, fire two big guns at him as he goes down, and reduce him to a blackened hole in the ground at the bottom of a canyon if you’re going for laughs. This movie also has the funniest sex scene since the South Park movie with the puppets.