Johnny English Reborn
Rowan Atkinson returns as the inept secret agent, this time taking on international assassins
A dumb and obnoxious former special ops hot-shot is called back from self-imposed exile to take down his arch-nemesis, who has hijacked a nuclear missile
MacGruber hails from American TV's 'Saturday Night Live' stable of comedy, being a big screen version of a small screen skit about a throwback action hero who relies on MacGyver-style contraptions instead of guns to take down the bad guys. 'SNL' has in the past given birth to comic pop culture landmarks, including Wayne's World and The Blues Brothers. But lest we forget, 'SNL' has also discharged uglier progeny, Coneheads and A Night At The Roxbury being among the worst of the unholy brood.
Although Wayne's World and MacGruber share be-mulleted protagonists with a soft spot for the music of rock, MacGruber is simply - as Wayne and Garth might put it - not worthy of being compared with Wayne's World's sweetly airheaded hilarity; it has more in common with the brainless smut of A Night At The Roxbury. And if you enjoyed the recent Hot Tub Time Machine, another mediocrity powered entirely by '80s references, none-too-subtle sex gags and general slapstick, then MacGruber is the film for you.
One of MacGruber's most oft-repeated jokes, so very oft-repeated that I'm sure no-one will mind me spoiling it here, is that the villain's surname is only one letter shy of that naughty word that got some people all of a fluster when uttered by an eleven year old in Kick-Ass. It's to the actors' credit that this seems sort of funny the first two or three times, but it wears thin by its fiftieth appearance. This is true of most of the film's repetitious sketch show humour.
This is a shame, because there are moments when MacGruber appears to be reaching for something else - something like the laugh out loud goofball fun of Hot Shots! or The Naked Gun, both of which are subtler, more sophisticated films. Let's pause and think about that for a moment. MacGruber is less subtle and less sophisticated than a film with a character called "Pete 'Dead Meat' Thompson" and a film which makes great play with a stuffed beaver.
In the plus column, a decent supporting cast sees Val Kilmer proving yet again that he's at his best when he's being ridiculous, although his ponytailed villain, the aforementioned Dieter Von Cunth, can't compare with his genuine career standout as detective Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. More surprisingly, Ryan Phillipe is weirdly good as the straight man to MacGruber's buffoon, while Kristen Wiig, one of the original 'SNL' cast, is probably the best thing in the film. The less said about leading man Will Forte the better - but you should have some idea of what an irritant he is here if I suggest that he'll make you pine for the graceful savoir faire of a Jack Black or an Adam Sandler.
Successful parodies subvert the conventions they're playing with, not simply copy them in a more outrageous way, because, funnily enough, exaggeration isn't the same thing as satire. MacGruber will satisfy those in thrall to the idea that flaunting political correctness is in and of itself funny.
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