Movies: MacGruber * * *
Many of you will remember the resourceful but unbearably smug 80s TV twit MacGyver, a special ops agent who would land himself in terrible scrapes then get out of them with the aid of a safety pin, some pocket lint and a small explosion.
In 2007, Saturday Night Live began a skit on the theme with sketches starring Will Forte as MacGruber, a special ops agent who tried to save the day using whatever he had in his pockets but invariably made a mess of it. This film expands the concept.
As the story opens, Colonel Jim Faith (Powers Boothe) and Lieutenant Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) journey to a remote monastery in the Equadorian jungle to find the reclusive MacGruber (Forte).
He retired 10 years ago after his bride-to-be was blown up by his mortal enemy Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) on their wedding day.
MacGruber has refused all offers to return to work, but when Colonel Faith tells him that Cunth has acquired a nuclear warhead and is aiming it at Washington, MacGruber sees a chance to get his revenge.
Arriving back in America, he assembles a crack team of commandos. But when he blows them all up by accident, he's forced to turn to Lieutenant Piper and an old friend called Vicki St Elmo (Kristen Wiig) instead. Mac and Vicki are keen on each other, but meanwhile there's the little matter of a master criminal and his atom bomb to be dealt with.
Saturday Night Live has made some pretty dreadful spin-off films, but MacGruber is modestly entertaining. This has less to do with the recurring 80s jokes (MacGruber has a mullet, and one of those car stereos that you take with you when you get out) than with the skill and charm of its cast.
Forte is fearless in his grotesque clowning, and Phillippe plays the straight man without a hint of a smirk. Wiig is a fine comic actress, who always catches perfectly the pitch of whatever film she's in, and Kilmer is great fun as an unfortunately named baddie.