— by RACHEL COYNE —
Making movies based on “popular” “Saturday Night Live” sketches is a tradition that goes back nearly 30 years (I leave it to you to define “popular” on your own terms here). But for every “The Blues Brothers” and “Wayne’s World,” there are dozens more like “Superstar,” “The Ladies Man” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” Which proves something that infants manage to learn in the first years of life: Something that’s funny for three minutes isn’t necessarily funny for 90 minutes.
The fact that “SNL” hasn’t really been funny in … so long I can’t count back that far is enough to make me extremely apprehensive about the release of their latest brainchild, “MacGruber.” Spoofing the 1980s television series “MacGyver,” the MacGruber sketches feature Will Forte in a mullet wig trapped in various warehouses, where he’s forced to disassemble a bomb, with Kristen Wiig as his harried assistant and the weekly host as some poor bastard being subjected to MacGruber’s ineptitude.
What makes the MacGruber sketches amusing, but not necessarily hilarious, are how short they are. Each sketch lasts about two minutes (or 30 seconds, in bomb time), and three of them are played throughout the “SNL” episode, with the direness of the situation and MacGruber’s weekly personal conflict escalating in each one. They’re quick and to the point, and each one inevitably ends with an explosion. For the combined air time of six minutes, I can dig it. But for a whole movie? That’s asking a lot, even for those who are easily amused.
The “MacGruber” trailer does have a few laughs to offer, but mainly due to the fact that it’s a red band trailer, meaning foul language and partial nudity are allowed. I don’t know if I would have found it so amusing if it didn’t feature Will Forte commenting on all the “f***ing wires” when the bomb he has to disassemble has more than three possible wires to cut. I do like the casting of Val Kilmer as the villain, and anything that features Powers Boothe can’t be all bad (right?). Ryan Phillippe also joins the cast as part of MacGruber’s crew, and naturally Kristen Wiig is there, because “SNL” doesn’t do anything without her.
So while I have no intention of running to the theater to see “MacGruber,” I may possibly rent it. Or wait for it to come onto cable. More specifically, premium cable, because you know it won’t be nearly as funny with all the swearing dubbed out.
“MacGruber” will cut the green wire on April 23.
Follow Rachel Coyne on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TheOpinionatedB.