Only one American hero has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL and Army Ranger. Just one operative has been awarded 16 purple hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor and 7 presidential medals of bravery. And only one guy is man enough to still sport a mullet. In 2010, Will Forte brings Saturday Night Live's clueless soldier of fortune to the big screen in the action comedy MacGruber.
In the 10 years since his fiancée was killed, special op MacGruber has sworn off a life of fighting crime with his bare hands. But when he learns that his country needs him to find a nuclear warhead that's been stolen by his sworn enemy, Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), MacGruber figures he's the only one tough enough for the job.
Assembling an elite team of experts—Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig)—MacGruber will navigate an army of assassins to hunt down Cunth and bring him to justice. His methods may be unorthodox. His crime scenes may get messy. But if you want the world saved right, you call in MacGruber.
"Time to go pound some Cunth."
Pepsuber was one of the funnier 2009 Super Bowl commercials, based on an SNL MacGuyver-spoof where a hapless, overly confident operative named MacGruber fails to disarm bomb after bomb. What works in 30 seconds clearly has a hard time filling 90 minutes, but you can't say the filmmaking team behind 'MacGruber' doesn't try their collective damndest.
MacGruber (Will Forte) has spent the last 10 years presumed dead and hiding in an Ecuadorian monastery after his wife was murdered by terrorist/former college buddy Dieter VonCunth (Val Kilmer). But when VonCunth steals a Russian nuclear warhead, it's time for the man who has earned 16 Purple Hearts to come back from the dead. MacGruber then assembles a veritable dream team of ass kickers, but accidentally kills them all, so he has to make do with straight-edged Lt. Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vikki, the woman who's always loved him (Kristen Wiig). Time to go kick some ass and rip some throats.
For me, it took two sittings to get through 'MacGruber.' Expectations were very low given its word-of-mouth and theatrical box office under-performance. Watching the film I was surprised to be laughing out loud repeatedly. I thought to myself, 'This movie simply has a bad wrap; it's a really silly, über foul-mouthed, strange comedic gem.' I was also surprised by director Jorma Taconnes. Most genre send-ups, save for the pitch perfect 'Hot Fuzz,' are flat in their staging and execution, but Taconnes keeps the camera kinetic and photographed this low budget actioner to look almost as good as its $100 Million Dollar big brothers. But then came the film's second act, and with it a complete tonal change and the movie remains uneven for the rest of its playing time, delivering an equal number of unfunny gags for every funny moment.
What happens 25 or so minutes into the movie that transforms the experience so negatively? Well, this is about the time -- as seen in the trailer where the van blows up behind him -- where the filmmakers decided to oscillate the MacGruber character between badass and bumbling. No longer a parody of action star motifs, MacGruber becomes a curse-spewing Maxwell Smart. The problem, for me at least, is that I can buy either end of the caricature spectrum -- a 'Get Smart' or 'Naked Gun' hapless loser who wins despite his incompetence, OR an overtly macho always right even when he's wrong guy (see Charlie Sheen in 'Hot Shots') -- but it's unsettling to be asked to buy both at once. The jokes and the tones are inconsistent at best, or in their worst moments cannibalize each other.
The remaining portions of the movie never quite live up to the first half hour, with similar jokes being recycled and reused, and perhaps this is simply because this extended television skit can't support a feature length running time, and so it fills itself with out-dated 'MacGuyver' and other 1980s gags (though not as well as 'Hot Tub Time Machine'). In the end, despite its lulls, the movie finishes on a high note, and in particular, some of the dead wife gags are shockingly funny. I'm not sure an action spoof poking fun at a TV series that hasn't been on the air for 20 years could have been blockbuster material, but its clear the filmmakers here are trying to fill ever frame of this movie with jokes. On the upside, it has a surprisingly funny opening and it looks nice in high-def. But overall, the film is uneven and at times, very flat.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'MacGruber' comes to Blu-ray on one single-layer 25GB disc, and is Region A locked. Viewers are immediately taken to a menu where they can choose to watch the Unrated or Theatrical Edition of the film. p>
'MacGruber' arrives on Blu-ray with a striking VC-1 1080p (aspect ratio 2.40:1) transfer. I honestly didn't imagine this movie would look so good.
There's tons of detail, from skin pores, facial hair, and clothing textures. Exterior days look great, bathed in warm sunlight and lush greens. Night scenes, and warehouse interiors fare almost as well. Contrast is smooth, with inky blacks transitioning all the way to clear whites. Some of the highlights are blown out, but this seems to be more filmmaker intent than a transfer issue. Skin tones are very nice in the sunlight, and evenly reflect interior environments.
Overall, it's a pretty slick transfer, with a few stunning moments. What holds the score back from perfection are intermittent softness (see VonCunth's party as MacGruber speaks with Vikki by the pool), and some color issues (see MacGruber at the airport, where what appears to be changes in weather during production results in uneven coloration between shots).
Another stunning DTS-MA 5.1 surround sound track from Universal Home Entertainment. At first I thought this track wasn't mixed properly, having to reach for my remote to adjust the volume between scenes, but that was because I was watching the film late at night and trying not to upset my apartment neighbors. Because this is one of those tracks that uses Blu-ray's dynamic range capabilities, it ranges from whisper quiet to house shaking bombastic. To hear it properly, I bumped my AVR's standard volume setting a few decibels, and tuned correctly, it sung. Deep lows, accurate stereo and surround pans, and screeching highs. The film's 1980s pop songs sound brand new and Matthew Compton's score, an ode-to-Bruckheimer action movies, gets nice treatment as well. While this soundtrack doesn't quite hold a candle to more expensive actioners in detail and aggression, the audio has a lot going for it and has some serious kick from the very its initial moments (the opening logo card for Relativity Media is a great opening workout for any system that rivals some of the Dolby or DTS logos). The main dilemma will be for apartment dwellers, who may have to apply their AVR's night mode or Dolby Volume to make sure 'MacGruber' doesn't get too loud.
Universal Home Entertainment also provides French and Spanish DTS 5.1 mixes, as well as English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Given its stunted box office performance, it's no surprise that 'MacGruber' arrives on Blu-ray with a minimal amount of special features. For fans of the flick, there's one 44-second Deleted Scene, an 8-minute Gag Reel of bloopers and outtakes, and Feature Commentary (on the Theatrical Edition) with Director/Co-Writer Jorma Taccone, Co-Writer/Star Will Forte and Co-Writer John Solomon. The filmmakers do a nice job of talking about the process honesty while not taking themselves seriously -- Jorma Taccone plays the MacGruber Drinking Game, sipping a beer every time the words Mac, MacGruber or Grubs is uttered (Important Message: High-Def Digest encourages drinking responsibly for all its readers.).
'MacGruber' is a very uneven movie experience, but it has a few enjoyable moments. Personally, this is more of a catch-it-on-cable movie than something I would recommend as a rental or purchase despite the surprisingly strong Blu-ray video and audio. For those who decide to rent it or buy it, please be aware that this is not a family movie at all (not that it ever claimed to be, but it was marketed similarly to the more family friendly 'Get Smart'). For fans of the movie, you're really going to enjoy how it looks and sounds, though sadly, there isn't much in the way of special features.