This is a Saturday Night Live sketch blown up to featurelength status, something which worked twice, once with Blues Brothers, once with Wayne’s World, but not Night at the Roxbury or Superstar or It’s Pat or Coneheads.
For Brits who almost certainly won’t be familiar, this guy is a bomb defusing expert and when we meet him it’s the same Troutman calling on Rambo III to drag him back out of retirement schtick that we saw in 1993’s Hot Shots Part Deux.
He appears to be awesome and everyone around him will corroborate this, despite the fact that he’s a ghastly idiot, much like Austin Powers. The problem that hits immediately is that it’s indistinct and inconsistent. This guy acts like a completely off-the-rails maniac, and a dribbling manboy, a swearing child and a sex pest and a vengeance-filled vigilante, and a sobbing wretch offering up his every orifice as a sexual receptacle to bewildered men, and the character slaloms between these unconnected poorly-formed extremes with mere seconds separating each personality. It should be funny but it’s quite frightening.
And let me tell you, when this man makes love… it is the most repulsive act of human theatre known to man. I would rather have literal sex with Tommy Wiseau in a plummeting elevator filled with ocelot vomit, than even once witness this fictional character orgasm again.
They also haven’t nailed down at any point what this collection of intentional cliches is supposed to be. His name and manner of dress and ability to improvise gadgets suggests the whole sketch is a parody of McGyver so that says 1985-1992, but he ejaculates obscenity far too much for that. He’s an arrogant macho asshole action star out for blood so that suggests 80s C-Grade action cinema flicks like Cobra, Commando or Red Scorpion, but he’s totally inept. His love interest (Kristen Wiig) dresses like Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels from 1976 and seems as innocent as a child, Macgruber drives a mid-90s Mazda MX-5 Miata, and listens to 80s emotion pop, however the soundtrack also features Wolfmother from 2005, and barely showcases a single 80s hit, which as you might remember from my X-Men Apocalypse podcast is absolutely key for setting the tone for that decade in particular. Broken Wings, that’s it, and it’s when he’s having sex so he ruined that song for me forever. He apparently died and went off the map in 1999 but because they can’t crystallise him strongly as being from precisely 1986 there’s only a vague sense of overall displacement, rather than, for example, the strong clash of 1967 and 1997 in International Man of Mystery.
The whole film plays out like a tired pointing-session as a conveyor-belt of tropes file past and are lazily nudged over, every so often. The setups take so long that when expectation is defied… you were expecting it for well over a minute. The humour is juvenile but also constantly vulgar, with the recurring gag (that a wasted, unappealing Val Kilmer’s villain is named Kuntz) milked until the cow turns inside out. This was directed by Jorma Tacome of the Lonely Island, and I can guarantee you would get more laughs out of a natural two minute chat with this funny and talented man.
And through it all Ryan Phillipe is playing it straight as the long-suffering audience character, filled with disapproval, and party to untold levels of abuse from this aggressive, foul-mouthed clown with shit hair.
Basically imagine 21 Jump Street… only your face will never leave the somber position. I really thought I was going too like this. It’s a true disappointment, ESPECIALLY since all you’d have to do would be to ditch Will Forte the actor playing MacGruber and pair up the naive Kristen Wiig with the world weary and sardonic Val Kilmer, get Shane Black to write the script and you’ve already got a zillion times better movie, rather than the box office thud this ended up as.
I’m going to cite my old colleague Paul Shotton with this one when he was describing the merits of a bad thriller that’s unintentionally hilarious, “Nobody was ever unintentionally thrilled by a bad comedy.”