“Never ever say never ever.” This is one of the pearls of wisdom of the title character of MacGruber, a film adapted from a series of Saturday Night Live sketches which fans and detractors alike might have agreed would never ever make for a decent movie. Generally running no more than ninety seconds and as ritualistically structured as kabuki theatre (or “Coneheads”), the “MacGruber” skits—wherein a mulleted Will Forte tries and fails to defuse a bomb in the company of Kristen Wiig and that week’s special guest host—epitomize the new house style at Saturday Night Live, and, accordingly, much of American film and television comedy in general: aggressively selling the joke while not-so tacitly acknowledging its basic stupidity. It’s balls-out frontality, but with the tail already neatly tucked between the legs.
In Jorma Taccone’s film adaptation, Forte tucks something else between his legs, or, to be more accurate, into his bum cheeks—a hunk of celery, transformed from mere fresh produce into a prop that allows MacGruber and his team (Wiig and special guest/career rehabilitating ex-star Ryan Phillippe) to get the drop on some gun-toting bad guys. On the one hand, the gag kids the conventions of MacGruber’s namesake and most explicit inspiration, MacGyver, whose hero was able to turn virtually any object or situation to his crime-fighting advantage (“Don’t thank me: thank the moon’s gravitational pull”). On the other, it’s simply an excuse for the star to make a literal ass of himself onscreen. Read Adam Nayman’s review of MacGruber.