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Rogue Pictures // Unrated // September 7, 2010
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 30, 2010 | E-mail the Author


MacGruber: Body Honed to the Peak of Physical Perfection!

MacGruber: Master of Disguise!

MacGruber: Unparalleled Marksman!

MacGruber: Expert Lover!

Classic MacGruber!

MacGruber: Pressure Under Fire!

MacGruber: Leader! Lover! Wait, Is That a Windsor Knot?!

MacGruber: MacGruber!

So, yeah: MacGruber.

I have no idea
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what I'm supposed to write in a review of MacGruber. I mean, I could recap the plot and all, but no one's really in it for the story. I could try to dive into how hysterical the whole thing is, but then I fall into the trap of awkwardly trying to describe specific gags, wind up making them not sound even a little bit funny, and spoil a bunch of the punchlines in the process. You'll just have to take it on faith, I guess: MacGruber is the third best comedy of 2010. There! I said it. Not taking it back either. Not unless I see more comedies in 2010, at least.

If you were wondering how MacGruber could grab a super-short SNL sketch off the shelf and stretch it out for an hour and a half, then...well, it doesn't, really. There are only three or so MacGuyver riffs in the entire flick, and there's none of that "Toss me that paper clip!" "You got it, MacGruber!"-dom until the climax rolls around. The rest of it's a pretty brilliant spoof of '80s action flicks. I don't mean "brilliant" in the Hot Fuzz sense...cleverly constructed, devastatingly witty, and all that. No, MacGruber's dumb. Gloriously, unapologetically dumb. That's exactly what it's setting out to do, though, so don't take that as a pan. Part of the gag is that so much of MacGruber is indistinguishable from a genuine '80s action flick. Think Rambo III filtered through Remo Williams on a Cannon budget. See, Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer) has swiped a nuclear warhead from the Russkies, and he's scheming to nuke Washington because...well, what else are you gonna do with a nuclear warhead? Our great nation has only one hope left: MacGruber (Will Forte)! Too bad he's been dead for ten years. Oh! Wait. His old mentor, Col. Faith (Powers Boothe), tracks the now-way-pacifistic MacGruber to the monastery or whatever in Ecuador where he's carved out a new life for himself...a quiet life...a peaceful life. Wait again! Cunth is behind this whole thing? This is the guy who splattered MacGruber's bride-to-be all over her wedding party and left MacGruber himself for dead. Payback's a bitch, and Cunth is past due and MacGruber is the bill collector and okay, I don't like where I'm going with this after all, so I'll just say that MacGruber is ready to pound some Cunth an' leave it at that.

I could rattle off some more, like the whole thing with superspy-turned-easy-listening-singer Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) or MacGruber's by-the-book military liasion (Ryan Phillippe), but I already backpedaled and wrote a plot summary after I said I wouldn't, so I'll hold off. MacGruber basically just lifts entire scenes from a bunch of different '80s action flicks, cranks 'em up to 11, and drops in a dick-sucking joke, a bouncy rectal-celery dance, or ghost fucking. I'm pretty sure that this is the first R-rated SNL movie in decades, and as you could probably tell from all that, it definitely earns that rating. Its sense of humor bounces back and forth between
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raunch and a Naked Gun-flavored genre spoof. MacGruber doesn't overexplain its jokes. The clichés it's riffing on may be overly familiar, but the way MacGruber mocks them is never predictable. C'mon, the movie's directed and co-written by Jorma Taccone of Lonely Island fame, and injecting in this sort of deadpan surrealism is what they do best. It's so deliriously over the top, and yet there's only one character in the entire flick who seems to think any of it's the least bit strange.

Even more than most comedies, MacGruber is really going to boil down to your sense of humor. It definitely demands an appreciation for the ridiculous, for double-digit IQ '80s action flicks, and for a hell of a lot of raunch. Not all of it works; a lot of the raunchier stuff in particular stumbles 'cause it relies too heavily on shock value, and if you're not easily shocked, it falls flat. Some of the sexual stuff from the SNL skits are more clever than the dick-sucking negotiations here, for instance. Man o' man, though...when MacGruber hits, it's devastating. There's one screengrab I opted not to use in this review so I wouldn't spoil a joke, but I kept it on my computer anyway and found myself looking at it every few minutes. It kept cracking me up every. single. time. I seriously went back and looked at the list of all the comedies I've watched this year, and the only ones that left me laughing longer and harder than MacGruber are Hot Tub Time Machine and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It's easily one of my favorite theatrical releases of 2010, and it's the best thing with the SNL stamp on it since Hot Rod rolled around. The only reason I'm not slapping one of DVD Talk's higher recommendations on this Blu-ray disc is that Universal didn't go all-out with the extras but is still heaping on a $39.98 MSRP. Even after the usual discounts online, it's not going for any less than $27, and all that for less than a minute of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a kinda lousy audio commentary...? Not even one of the MacGruber sketches from SNL...? Weak. MacGruber still comes Recommended, but stick with a rental for now and buy it once the sticker price eases back.

Oh, and for anyone keeping track at home, this Blu-ray disc includes both the R-rated theatrical release and a new unrated cut. Unless I'm overlooking something during my kinda lazy comparison, there's nothing all that unrated about it...nothing more extreme than what's already in the hyper-raunchy R-rated release, at least. Seems like just a couple of deleted scenes dropped back in. The unrated version has another scene with Cunthe ordering a hit on MacGruber, and there's some banter about banter between MacGruber and Lt. Piper during the big invasion on Cunthe's stronghold. The difference in runtime is around four and a half minutes in total, and those two scenes seem to make up the bulk of it.

Like pretty much everything else I'm reviewing anymore, MacGruber was shot digitally with the mighty RED camera. It's kind of perfect, really. The scope image is ridiculously sharp and detailed. Black levels are consistently deep and inky. The texture is wonderfully smooth and clean like I've come to expect out of the RED, and this Blu-ray disc doesn't look as if it's been processed or filtered at all. Video noise never really creeps in, not even when the lights are dialed down. The palette is frequently kind of subdued in the same way that a lot of action flicks are anymore, and there's a pretty impressive sense of depth and dimensionality too. So, what am I going to complain about? Complaints, complaints, compla...oh! There are a couple of quick moments that don't look as clean as I'd expect them to -- the red of MacGruber's Miata as he steps out to the strains of "Take Me Home Tonight", and one kinda smoky shot early on -- but they look the same way in two separate encodes with two different codecs, so that seems to just be the way the movie was shot. I can't really think of anything else to bitch about, though. High five, MacGruber!

MacGruber doesn't do the whole seamless branching thing, instead serving up the R-rated and unrated versions as two separate encodes. Strangely enough, it looks like the theatrical cut has been encoded with AVC while the unrated version uses VC-1. Huh. Both encodes are dished out on a dual layer platter, and they're both letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 too. Toggling back and forth between the two different encodes, I couldn't spot any meaningful difference in quality.

MacGruber's packing a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and...well, the movie may be a spoof and all, but it's still an action flick. You know what that means. Fifty megaton explosions. Endless sprays of gunfire ping-ponging from channel to channel. The subwoofer snarling with all that gunplay. The throaty growl of MacGruber's Miata firing up. '80s power ballads. Rockin' synths. Y'know, all the usual action mainstays. This really is a very effective soundtrack and does sound quite a bit like a genuine studio action flick whenever it has half a chance. All of the effects are tight, punchy, and full-bodied, the score and licensed '80s adult contemporary soundtrack come through perfectly, and the dialogue's pretty much always clean and clear. There are a couple of stray lines I couldn't quite make out, but that's not all that big a deal. I started to sum it all up by writing something like "MacGruber's lossless audio is no joke!", but then I realized how terrible that sounds and decided against it. But yeah. MacGruber's lossless audio really is no joke.

Also belted out here are lossy DTS 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish. There's a Descriptive Video Service Track too along with one of those D-Box thingies. Subtitles, meanwhile, are piled on in English (SDH), Spanish, and French. There are a few subs that come up during the movie, and owners of constant image height projection rigs can take note that none of those spill over into the letterboxing bars.

Not much. C'mon, they didn't even toss on a single one of the MacGruber sketches from SNL. Lame, lame, lame.
  • Deleted Scene (1 min.; HD): MacGruber's epic reel of deleted scenesscene clocks in at 44 seconds. There's nothing to it but MacGruber and his team
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    trotting down a hall at the Pentagon and kinda/sorta/not-really getting a recap of how his meeting with the military brass went.

  • Gag Reel (8 min.; HD): The gag reel kinda makes up for the more-or-less lack of any deleted scenes since a bunch of alternate takes and improvs are dished out here too. I'm pretty sure it's the only outtakes reel I've caught that has broken celery sticks yanked out between an actor's buttcheeks and replaced with crisp new ones, so there's that.

  • Audio Commentary: MacGruber's commentary track is only available on the theatrical cut of the flick, and...yeah. It's not that great. All three of MacGruber's writers -- Jorma Taccone (who also directs), Will Forte (who also stars), and John Solomon (who also nothing-else) -- hop in front of the mic for this one, with Solomon phoning in his end of the conversation. The opening stretch of the commentary is really subdued...they kind of just lean back and quietly watch the movie. Solomon is pretty much a non-presence for the whole thing, but even when Taccone and Forte do get around to saying more, not much of it is all that hysterical or particularly noteworthy. There's some stuff, sure, like Powers Boothe shifting for Ryan Phillippe as he's driving a Jeep since the kid doesn't know how to handle a stick. They also run through a bunch of gags that didn't make it into the final cut or the unrated release, they point out a gaggle of the references to '80s and '90s action flicks, there's a whole thing about a post-coital-smell-you-later argument, and they admit that the climax is kinda lazy. You could probably cram all the best stuff into a ten or fifteen minute interview. Not really worth a listen unless you just have it playing in the background or something.
Oh yeah, MacGruber is a BD Live-enabled disc, although all the online stuff seems awfully generic. There's a shiny slipcover and all too. No digital copy or anything this time around, tho'.

The Final Word

I mean, that's kind of a word. It's final. It's the final word.

MacGruber is a gloriously dumb spoof of '80s action flicks and might be the most hysterical flick to ever have wielded the SNL stamp of approval or whatever. Sure, there are some definite swing-and-a-misses with the comedy, especially the lazier raunch. (Not-lazy raunch...? Good. Lazy raunch? Less so.) When MacGruber connects, though, it kills. If I were forced at gunpoint to rank all the comedies I've plowed through this year, MacGruber would rank third, and for my money, that's pretty damn good. I'm kinda disappointed with this Blu-ray disc, though. Why not dump a bunch of the MacGruber sketches from SNL on here? No more improvs? No making-of stuff? No one else to drag into the recording booth for the commentary? With more stuff or a lower sticker price, I'd give MacGruber a way more enthused recommendation. This Blu-ray disc is still worth picking up, but for the $27 to $30 it's going for online right now...? Nah. Netflix-as-a-verb this disc now and buy it when the price eases back a bit. Still Recommended, though.
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