The international businessman Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), who has the ear of top politicians as well as captains of industry, is not all he seems. In fact, he is a power-crazed maniac who has recently stolen a nuclear warhead from the Russians and now plans to unleash it on Washington D.C., but Colonel Faith (Powers Boothe) cannot prove it to his superiors thanks to Cunth being so chummy with them. There's only one course of action available, and that is to call on the services of Special Forces Agent MacGruber (Will Forte) - but he retired a long time ago...
Can he be coaxed out of retirement? After this movie's disastrous box office showing, it wouldn't be surprising if not only did we never hear from him again, but that any mention of him would be met with a blank expression as all memory of the character had been wiped from the public consciousness. Was that fair? The main bone of contention that those who took against the movie was that it wasn't simply unfunny, it was aggressively juvenile and idiotically puerile to boot, but as was the way with these things, by aiming so low they did hit the mark if you were willing to overlook the profanity and relentless bad taste.
Actually, it hit the mark if you were willing to embrace the profanity and bad taste, because that was pretty much all MacGruber had going for it. It was one of those Saturday Night Live movies which rarely had anyone going nuts over: for every Wayne's World there were plenty Stuart Saves His Family or It's Pat, and this item was quickly ushered into that company. It was based on a series of sketches spoofing the eighties action heroes who proliferated in that age on television and film - in the thanks during the credits gratitude is expressed towards that hardy band of brothers (and occasionally sisters), and it's clear Forte and his co-writers had spent a lot of time in their company.
But would MacGruber cut the mustard with that esteemed bunch should he have been the genuine article? There are sections in this where you might consider that Forte would have been wiser to hire a more obvious tough guy performer as he certainly does not look as if he would be able to handle himself in combat, yet although that does make you wonder why anyone called upon him to do anything remotely militaristic in the first place, after a while you cotton on that this is the point. Yes, we were basically in the territory staked out by Peter Sellers in his Inspector Clouseau role, the incompetent who will not acknowledge his limitations and strikes the heroic pose.
It might help a little if you were familiar with the works being sent up here, but it was not completely necessary, as for much of the running time the stupid jokes were the selling point, so no matter how macho he got MacGruber wasn't going to slavishly recreate any of the recognisable sequences from its influences. Instead, you got the meatheaded protagonist assembling his team of hardmen only to accidentally blow them up when he overdoes it with the explosives carried in his van, or attempting a diversion with a selection of any objects he has to hand by settling on stripping naked and dancing around with a stick of celery up his arse. If anything, the film did not do enough to skewer the hackneyed ideas of the genre, preferring to invent various ridiculous ways that the characters can descend to MacGruber's level of foolishness, which is quite some way to drop, but if you were in the mood it could have you laughing a lot. Forte's dedication was something to behold, that was for sure. Music by Matthew Compton.