“It's good to be back home in Austin, Texas,' said Jorma Taccone, Saturday Night Live writer and director of Macgruber, the sketch-to-film starring Will Forte and Kristen Wiig that debuted at SXSW last night. He paused for applause. “Actually, I was born and raised in Berkeley, but you guys make it feel like a home here.”
It was the final pause for reaction of the evening. Macgruber, which Taccone said screened not-entirely finished, is an 80s action film spoof played straight, so much so that at last night's packed Paramount screening a good half of the dialogue was inaudible thanks to laughs carrying over from the deadpan joke just before.
Which is not to say that Macgruber is necessarily any good, but as dumbass comedies go, it was an effective palette cleanser after a weekend of uneven indies. The film was given the late-inning, big theater festival time slot that SXSW often accords to studio comedies expected to skew nerdy. The question is: will Macgruber break out like previous SXSW premiere Knocked Up? Or will it go the way of last year's entry Observe and Report–loved by a few, hated by some, and by the vast majority completely dismissed?
It's hard to say–both of those films are smarter and more mature than Macgruber. The humor is both absurdly raunchy and gleefully juvenile: gay jokes and poop jokes predominate; the “two minutes of pure sex” that Taccone joked helped extend the concept from micro-short to feature-length feel like a 11 year-old's vision of marital relations as gleaned from reading in between the lines of Crocodile Dundee (named by Forte as an influence, natch). There's a gay kiss involving a famous wrestler, and this is the film's idea of a subversive coup. And if your testicles have just descended, maybe you'll agree.
Transparently aimed at the middle school-aged boy in all of us, particularly those of us who were middle-school-aged during the late 80s-early 90s, when cineplexes were full of mullet-rocking American heroes who broke all the rules in order to save the day, Macgruber has similarities to Cop Out in its nostalgia for late-Reagan-era notions of badassery. I'll write more on this when Macgruber hits theaters later this Spring.