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TV TATTLE

Peacock's MacGruber is an overextended movie that amounts to overkill

  • Will Forte's MacGruber "is both following up a notorious box office bomb, and doing so with more of this defiantly unlikable character than ever—its eight episodes add up to over three hours. In other words, there is suddenly an approximate 120% increase in the amount of MacGruber in the world," says Jesse Hassenger. "This is exciting for fans of Forte’s whole deal—broadly speaking, a gonzo parody of American masculinity, revealing the grasping neediness beneath a lot of ceremonious, cliché-ridden bravado. It’s a natural, and often hilariously grotesque, progression from the work of Forte’s SNL predecessor Will Ferrell, and MacGruber has become Forte’s vehicle to explore the vast insecurities that inform our action-movie myths. The series version of MacGruber gives Forte, along with co-creators Jorma Taccone and John Solomon, plenty of time to expand on the vague Rambo spoofery of the first film. Maybe, it pains this Forte acolyte to admit, a little too much time. Functionally, the show is a three-hour, decade-later sequel to the film, and given that Forte, Taccone, and Solomon had long discussed a sequel film, it seems pretty likely that this material was overextended from a feature idea. The first episode in particular feels like a lengthy postscript to the movie, catching the audience up on how the ending of 2010’s MacGruber has been undone—a shady sequel tactic that plays fine here, given how prone Mac is to blowing up his life, literally and figuratively." Hassenger adds: "What’s left is the inherent advantages of making MacGruber stuff at all—the delight that this character continues to exist by the sheer love of a stubborn few. The show still goofs amusingly on how the one-man-army brand of patriotism sold by so many action movies is actually just raging narcissism, and Forte remains an expert at poor attempts to disguise a tantrum as laconic cool. Fans will adopt some of the new running gags; expect a small uptick in locket sales among comedy nerds. It’s a shame, though, that this supersized version can’t sustain its satirical ambitions or its goofy emotional notes as well as, say, a longer-form Ferrell effort like Talladega Nights."

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    • MacGruber is stupidly funny: "Sometimes the IP-driven days of streaming can be very generous, in ways that we could not have expected five years ago," says Nick Allen. "The latest example is MacGruber, a new series that is essentially four-hour movie based on the 2010 cult action-comedy character borne from bite-sized Saturday Night Live skits. For long-held worries that one of the best action-comedies in years wouldn’t get a sequel, Peacock now gives its character a massive, totally on-brand treatment. Best of all, it’s just as infectiously self-amusing as the movie, blitzing through all the countless jokes and throat-ripping, silly macho gesturing, and terrified nudity that it so pleases. There are no references to the almighty 'KFBR392' joke from the original, but throughout eight cinematic episodes, MacGruber the show is about as stupidly funny as you would hope."
    • MacGruber is an unnecessary reminder that not everything that's funny for three minutes works for two hours, much less four: "After an expletive-laden Maya Rudolph song that essentially recaps the entire 2010 movie, the show runs out of ingenuity, turning into a pretty colossal bore long before it's over," says Brian Lowry. "Because of the more expansive format, MacGruber has time to spoof not only MacGyver, its original inspiration, but basically everything ever produced with guns and action, which explains the Bond-esque opening credits...MacGruber works overtime at feeling edgy (the gags are R-rated and then some), but that consists of variations on the same couple of jokes over and over, from Wiig's character gushing about MacGruber's sexual prowess to action sequences that end with oodles of blood."
    • MacGruber having Will Forte in his shrieking-at-the-sky glory is plenty enough: "After all, what takes that movie scene’s premise and sends it into the stratosphere is Forte’s reaction," says Steve Greene. "The helpless pleading in the way he says 'Tug? Tug? You guys OK??' is more MacGruber than any action-movie showdown or high-voltage aerial maneuvering. Even with all those years in between, Forte returns to a role that fits him like a friggin’ glove. As a co-writer on the series (along with Taccone and John Solomon, who also combine to direct most of the season), Forte is planted right inside his goofball wheelhouse, with his eyebrows arched and his voice artificially husky."
    • MacGruber fans will find the revival series to be "the MacGruberiest TV show of the year": "Personally, I fall into a MacGruber middle ground, wherein I understand completely what it’s doing and find it fitfully amusing and very sporadically hilarious, without quite finding it conceptually transcendent," says Daniel Fienberg. "This latest incarnation hasn’t quite reached the popping point for the brand, but it also doesn’t feel like TV has somehow become its ideal vehicle. The standout parts are still every bit as funny, while the gaps between those parts have only grown. I wouldn’t expect Peacock’s MacGruber to win over a single detractor and it may tax the patience of some viewers at my tier of fandom, but the fiercest of devotees will doubtlessly find MacGruber to be the MacGruberiest TV show of the year."
    • For the most part, Peacock’s MacGruber is hitting many of the same jokes that made the movie a cult favorite: "One of the main complaints about movies and TV shows based on comedy sketches is that these adaptations can often feel like little more than a collection of bits strung together," says Ross Bonamie. "As much fun as 2010’s MacGruber was, that was also the case, and at times, Peacock’s MacGruber can feel the same way. This new format, however, does allow these bits to breathe a bit more and explore various types of action films to parody. For example, MacGruber’s third episode 'Brimstone' becomes more of a First Blood spoof than a MacGyver one, and the fourth episode, 'The Scientist,' puts MacGruber, Vicki, and Dixon in their own Mission: Impossible-style heist. Yet for the most part, Peacock’s MacGruber is hitting many of the same jokes that made the movie a cult favorite. The action may be bigger, and the jokes slightly more ridiculous, but that's to be expected in MacGruber's biggest story yet. We know that MacGruber will go over-the-top with his insults, underperform when the bullets start flying, and will likely disappoint everyone in his general vicinity. Even though MacGruber can at times feel like an elongated version of the film, these jokes still land, the idiocy of MacGruber still works, and the insanity of this adventure remains entertaining throughout the eight episodes."
    • Will Forte says he had no problem going fully nude, but taking off his clothes in the desert was the most challenging: “I mean, there were some full nude days, for sure, where I was nude from start to finish,” says Forte. “Then there was the day in the desert where I had to disrobe… That was a pain in the butt, because at least with the stuff in Episode 2, I’m just naked the whole time.”
    • Will Forte and fellow MacGruber creators Jorma Taccone and John Solomon never gave up on the idea of a sequel: “We had a ton of ideas on a Google doc that we had been adding to for 11 years,” says Taccone. “A lot of entries like ‘Whoever smelt it, dealt it,’ question mark, four asterisks.” They were told their ideas weren't financially viable as a movie. But Peacock's arrival offered the opportunity of a TV series. Still, they opted not to alter the character or fix perceived flaws in the film but rather to provide “the enhanced version” of the movie — still violent and obscene, but otherwise played like a straight-ahead thriller, never winking at the audience or acknowledging its own outrageousness. “That’s part of the joke to us,” says Taccone. “We’re creating an action-movie world to then destroy it, and the more real it is, the funnier it is that it has this incorrect lead.” As for non-fans, SNL creator and MacGruber executive producer Lorne Michaels says: "I think it’s truly funny, but it’s not something any legitimate critic is going to praise. It pushes so far beyond the acceptable. It embraces dumb in a way that most people are embarrassed to admit they like. People like better-behaved comedy, but comedy is disruptive and can be annoying. It’s freeing. Maybe it’s adolescent boy stuff. It can’t be justified, so it needs somebody to speak up for it.”

    TOPICS: MacGruber, Peacock, Saturday Night Live, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone, Lorne Michaels, Will Forte




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