Macgruber knows what it wants to be. It aspires to the screwball comedy heights of Airplane and Hot Shots. These hallowed classics never focused on story, even in comparison to other comedies.  Similarly, Macgruber’s paper-thin plot exists only as an excuse to string together as many absurdities as possible. The movie lives and dies on the strength of the gags sardined into its lean runtime.

The bag of jokes, unfortunately, yields more duds than hits. I can think of three scenes that rightfully stole a hearty laugh from out of me- each one crasser than the next. And that’s the problem. Where dirty jokes are concerned, Macgruber can go toe-to-toe with Airplane. Outside of these punctuated moments of comedy bliss, Macgruber lacks the clever, clean jokes that make Airplane memorable. Will Forte plays Macgruber as though every line is a witty in-joke, but most of the time, the screenplay can’t match his swagger, which makes for some unintentionally uncomfortable moments. On the other hand, I sensed from some of the supporting cast a consciousness that the lines they were delivering weren’t particularly funny.

Outside of this primary problem, I have one nitpick: the opening scene is surprisingly serious and adds little to the movie. Comedies usually open with a barrel of laughs, so the decision to include this scene struck me as nothing short of bizarre.

After watching large quantities of Will Forte, I think I’ve finally got him pegged. If the material is funny, Forte can add to it. But Forte doesn’t belong to that rare breed of comedian that can save bad material. And, since he was one of the screenplay writers, he must be personally responsible for a lot of the clunkers in Macgruber. Forte has both a terrific deadpan and an assortment of wacky expressions, so when Macgruber’s script works, he ensures that it produces comedy gold.   Kristen Wiig, my favorite current SNL cast member, performs well with some funny lines, but most of the time she functions as a “straight man” to Forte’s zany handyman.  Ryan Phillippe looks lively enough giving Forte another serious face to play off of.  But Val Kilmer looks very displeased to be in the movie, and who can blame him?  He’s much better off talking about huckleberries, whatever those might be.

There’s little more to say about this spoof of a quintessential ’80’s action show.  Macgruber has some enjoyable heights, and it fares pretty well in comparison to the canon of SNL movies; I’d fit it somewhere in the vicinity of Night at the Roxbury.  Some of the dialogue surrounding the set-piece scenes, however, is painfully un-funny.  Much like the gadgets he makes, Macgruber feels slap-dashed together.

The Round-Up
A handful of unforgettable scenes save an uneven script.
There's something unique about Forte; I can't help but root for the guy.
A better director might have cut some of the chaff, starting with the puzzling opening scene.
Some inspired song choices spice up an otherwise by-the-numbers score.
Folks with a penchant for dirty humor will find Macgruber mostly worthy of their time. Everybody else should stay far far away.
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