Who's In It: Will Forte, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
The Basics: It's been 10 years since his bride-to-be exploded to death during their wedding ceremony and former action hero/supergenius/badass killing machine MacGruber has retreated to a rural Third World village to live his life meditating and being taunted by local children. But now the U.S. government needs him to thwart a very '80s menace: Val Kilmer--as just the sort of hilarious villain you want him to be--wants to take a Russian nuclear weapon and destroy Washington, D.C., and only MacGruber (with his special bad guy-distracting trick of prancing around naked with a stalk of celery planted up his butt) can stop him.
What's The Deal: The question I've been asked most this week is, "How will they turn this 20-second long skit into a movie?" (No one asks me questions about politics or art or books or anything any more; it's all stuff like this and "Isn't it crazy how many costume changes they have in Sex and the City 2?") And the answer is that they took the outline of a human being and turned him into someone with a past. He's also got an almost narrative-sustaining level of idiocy that deepens his SNL-patented lack of focus, the one that gets him blown up and killed over and over on TV. The creators have further taken the MacGuyver parody of the sketches and expanded the target to include every '80s Cold War action film--with the added bonus of two absurdly truthful Top Gun-like sex scenes set to the music of Mr. Mister. So yeah, it's not just him badly defusing bombs over and over. It's much stupider (and smarter) than that.
When It's Funniest: When it takes advantage of the R-rating. It's a lowbrow comedy, so the filthier it gets the better it is (the celery in the butt thing is the mildest example of what's in store for you). And it doesn't shy away from using extreme violence for laughs either, as MacGruber's hobby of ripping out the throats of bad guys turns into a running gag.
When It's Confusing: In a way it's like The Brady Bunch Movie, where you have people living as though it's an earlier decade planted in the present and oblivious to that fact. But for all of this character's '80s lifestyle choices, neither he nor the movie choose to make much of the weirdness of a Miata-driving, Eddie Money-listening, mullet-wearing guy living comfortably in 2010. Same goes for Kristen Wiig's character who is actually more '70s-identified in terms of hair and clothing. You're never sure what their relationship is to the modern world and the movie seems not to care enough to explain it.
Blink And You'll Miss: The Real Genius shout-out when they flash back to Val Kilmer as an '80s college student, sporting the same hairstyle he wore in that film. What you won't miss is the Richard Dean Anderson cameo. There isn't one. Why, movie, why?