THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392 ‘MacGruber’ KFBR392 KFBR392 KFBR392

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More than any other genre of movies, determining what comedy will survive as a classic is harder to pick. For one part, each time a gag is repeated it loses its value. Secondly, topical humor has a very short shelf life. What could be poignant and hilarious in 2004 could be all but forgotten by 2015. But it’s that very tricky nature of comedy that allows so many flops to gain relevance over time – for example, Office Space, Pootie Tang, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and The Big Lebowski. We can safely add another film onto that list – 2010’s MacGruber. Based on a Saturday Night Live sketch, MacGruber was already starting from behind. It had been 10 years since the previous attempt to mold an SNL character into a feature length film, and there hasn’t been another since. MacGruber bombed, but it has survived by slowly building a cult following because it’s one of the funniest movies of the past 5 years.

One of the reasons that MacGruber failed to catch the attention of moviegoers were the ineffectual trailers made for the film. The particular trailer I remember most was crammed full of abbreviated jokes with each making a minimal impact. The trailer gave the film the look of a derivative, unfunny SNL movie. MacGruber is a movie full of gags, and a number of these gags take a while to payoff. Making the trailer just bite-sized versions of these gags does a disservice to jokes themselves and the movie as a whole. One can’t help but wonder if the trailer just consisted of a single scene from the film whether or not it would’ve helped better capture the interest of the public.

Now MacGruber is a film without a complex plot, and that does nothing but work to the film’s favor.  Following the murder of his wife, Casey (Maya Rudolph), on their wedding day by the nefarious Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), MacGruber (Will Forte) has been hiding in a monastery. After Cunth obtains an X-5 warhead, Colonel Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lieutenant Piper (Ryan Phillippe) try to convince the once elite spy to use his powers to stop Cunth. After assembling an elite team of badasses and subsequently blowing them up accidentally, MacGruber must take on the supervillain with only the help of Piper and a former acquaintance of MacGruber’s, Vicki (Kristen Wiig). With the clock ticking down before Cunth unleashes the warhead upon Washington D.C., MacGruber must learn how to work with others, as well as how to shoot a gun, and save the day once again.

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One area the film excels, and the trailer undercuts, in the collision between absurdism and naturalism. Many of the characters, most notably Piper, live in something that resembles reality while MacGruber lives within a bubble of his own hubris. Now the film undercuts MacGruber’s ego at nearly every available opportunity, making the character confront reality even if he doesn’t actually accept it. The trailer, however, placed an emphasis on reaction shots of MacGruber’s outlandish sayings, drawing more attention to those reactions than the film ever does.

It’s not just the clash between the real and the absurd that makes MacGruber so damn funny. As I mentioned before, there’s a patience to a number of the film’s gags. Some, like KFBR392, which are set up very early in the film that don’t pay off until near the conclusion. There’s a confidence behind these decisions, and the durability of KFBR392 proves that it was the correct decision. Also, MacGruber looks better than most of the movies it’s parodying. I sincerely wish most action movies looked like MacGruber. Aside from nailing the look, MacGruber finds humor in playing with clichéd musical cues. When MacGruber starts to assemble his team, The Black KeysHeavy Soul blares. Of course, that’s not quite MacGruber’s jam so he switches stations to Rosanna by Toto. There’s a density to so many of the film’s gags that you could get caught up talking about the look of it all or the musical cues as gags that you might forget to mention the ridiculous sex scenes and MacGruber’s signature “celery trick.”

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Even though MacGruber was a flop, it wasn’t an expensive one. The rabid cult following that has built around the film have become desperate for a sequel. Though there’s no work on if the studio will back it, Will Forte has said that he and director Jorma Taccone have been working on script for the sequel. Whether or not MacGruber 2 ever becomes a reality, MacGruber is an unheralded comedy classic that will be talked about for years to come. If you don’t believe, just see for yourself.

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