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Now You See It: “MacGruber” – Necessary Spoof or Deserved Flop?

Now You See It: "MacGruber" - Necessary Spoof or Deserved Flop?

There is a sort of outcry I keep noticing regarding certain movies that aren’t doing well at the box office. Movies that are very popular with the blog critics out there, like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Kick-Ass.” Those kinds of movies that are enthusiastically supported at Comic-Con only to be dismissed by the mainstream come theatrical release time. This year the phrase has also been used in relation to the disappointment of “MacGruber,” which was well-received by the Austin crowd at its SXSW premiere only to be ignored at the multiplex two months later (it made even less than both the much-hated “Jonah Hex” and the science documentary “Hubble 3D,” to give an idea of how little people cared about it). The phrase has variations, but the gist of the outcry involves telling readers that they’ll be sorry after they discover such and such movie on video and then wish that they had seen it on the big screen.

I saw Tweets spouting remarks to that effect this week due to Tuesday’s DVD release of “MacGruber.” But will anyone watch the “Saturday Night Live” spin-off and seriously complain about having waited a few months for it? I highly doubt it. Not only is this not a theatrically necessary movie — even the few explosions look made-for-TV — but honestly I don’t believe it will now or ever have the king of cult following that some people expect it to. Even if it does become the latest “Wet Hot American Summer”-type of late bloomer, though, there can’t be many fans of that movie kicking themselves for only being able to see it on the small screen either. Have you ever wished you could go back in time and see “Better Off Dead” or “Office Space” during their original run? Why would you? You have it now, in a convenient and cheap form, and there’s nothing particularly spectacular in any of these cult comedies that call for them to be enjoyed on any larger than a 13″ screen.

What is “MacGruber” worth to you if not the cost of a ticket at your local movie theater? A rental charge? A barely quantifiable fraction of your Netflix subscription fee? I would say it wasn’t even worth the 90 minutes of my time that I devoted to it. But that’s just me. Maybe I expected more after all the fuss about it being the best “SNL”-spun movie in almost 20 years (regardless of the lack of value in such a statement). But clearly there are people who enjoy its unorginal, immature and repetitive humor. The praise just keeps on coming with blogs’ DVD picks for this week. “It’s actually good,” they all seem to uniformly claim without clear reason. I’m not one to say someone’s sense of humor is wrong, so that’s fine that they like it.

But I do find the support to be a little much. One of the funniest movies of the year so far? Brilliant performance from Val Kilmer? Spot on spoof of ’80s action movies? I feel like I watched a different movie. Or lived in a different ’80s. I didn’t see the recent “Get Smart” movie, but I can’t believe it’s a worse comedy about an idiot operative than this. And I enjoy moron humor as much as the next broad-comedy lover and will watch most anything of this sort starring Steve Carell, Steve Martin, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly or Zach Galifianakis and some select examples with Adam Sandler, Chis Farley, Amy Poehler or Ben Stiller. But I’ve just never been able to appreciate “MacGruber” star Will Forte. Not in this, not in the original sketches, and I found him to be even worse for “30 Rock” than Julianne Moore.

I will admit to this: there was one thing that kept me tuned in, and her name is Kristen Wiig. Not surprising, as I’ve previously found her a strong presence in otherwise dull comedies like “Extract” and “Semi-Pro” and worth enough notice in minor roles in decent films like “Adventureland” and “Whip It.” I can’t wait for her to get a film of her own, because she’s a thousand times more appealing than Forte, and she can match wits with the likes of finer male comic talents like Ferrell, Jason Bateman, Ricky Gervais and others. She’s a bit understated, I guess, especially when playing moronic, which makes her less likely to command a vehicle of her own in the man’s world of idiot comedy. But if the upcoming “Bridesmaids,” which she co-wrote and will star in for producer Judd Apatow, isn’t the much-deserved breakout I hope it is, then maybe she can at least have a Thursday night sitcom once she leaves “SNL.” Either way, she deserves much better than “MacGruber” and its anally fixated antics.

I’d love to hear from those of you who do like “MacGruber,” what specific reasons, jokes, scenes can you offer for why others might enjoy it more than I did.

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Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic)

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