Once, there was a nuclear missile. And it did a very, very bad thing. It did not mean to do this thing. Nuclear missiles are not, after all, sentient beings. It did not act of malice or spite. But it still caused great misery and pain to the hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of people who decided to watch this film.
In MacGruber—a movie based on a series of Saturday Night Live skits which, in turn, were spoofs of the 1980s-era TV show MacGyver—the missile is stolen by bad people, headed by a bad man with a bad name so intentionally close to a really harsh crudity that I’m reluctant to repeat it here. He plans to wield the missile for deeply destructive purposes (though, really, what else can you do with a nuclear weapon?), which makes the United States government quite antsy. So, in a desperate attempt to find the bomb before it can be used, official agents entice MacGruber���a 16-time Purple Heart recipient—to come out of retirement to help.
MacGruber quickly assembles a crack team—and accidentally blows it up with ill-packed C4. MacGruber then gathers another, smaller crack team and begins his quest to bring the missile-stealer to MacGruber-style justice. MacGruber, you see, doesn’t just want to save the free world, he wants revenge for the death of his wife—who was blown up by this very same evildoer while she and MacGruber were still standing at the altar on their wedding day.
If only this missile had not done this bad thing. If only this missile had never existed, perhaps the government wouldn’t have invited MacGruber back into service. Perhaps this movie would never have existed either. Perhaps moviegoers could’ve been spared MacGruber’s agonizing horrors—things so painful that, even now, I’m loathe to discuss them.
MacGruber offers a strong argument for junking all nuclear missiles—especially fictional ones. And while writing this review, I learned how to spell “Blaupunkt.”
We occasionally see dead people—ghosts of ancillary characters.
MacGruber serves as the groom in two weddings, both presided over by priests. In the first, a bomb is hidden in a hollowed-out Bible, and the resulting explosion kills MacGruber’s wife. In the second, the priest is killed by a rocket.
When MacGruber walks into the Pentagon to take on the job of finding the missile, somebody says, in amazement, “My God!” “Your God can’t help you,” MacGruber tells him. “But I can.”
MacGruber’s teammate, Lt. Piper, asks MacGruber why he doesn’t make moves on another teammate, Vicki. MacGruber tells Piper that after his wife died, he solemnly swore never to be with another woman.
That vow lasts about 10 minutes of screen time. Sexually aroused after Vicky fishes a bullet out of his upper thigh, MacGruber begins to take off his, then her clothes. “I’m a virgin,” Vicky says. “Not for long,” MacGruber answers. Soon, they’re both under the sheets, with MacGruber violently thrusting as he talks dirty to Vicky and she, seemingly, tries to ward off his bad breath.
Next up: his wife’s ghost, who tells him to get on with his life. MacGruber thanks her by having sex with her—with the same thrusting, the same dirty talk, the same halitosis avoidance—only now MacGruber’s naked and his partner is dead. We, and a graveyard caretaker, see his bare buttocks. While alive, it’s noted, MacGruber started having sex with Casey (who later became his wife—for a few seconds) while she was engaged to another man and pregnant with his child.
Elsewhere, MacGruber strips naked (he covers his most critical private parts with his hands), sticks a piece of celery into his backside and prances about as a diversion. It’s a tactic later mimicked by Piper. MacGruber offers to have sex with—and/or in front of—Piper. Then MacGruber drops his trousers and exposes his rear to emphasize his point. He later repeats the offer to his boss, Col. Faith.
One of the men MacGruber considers for his team is seen kissing another man, whereupon MacGruber hastily crosses him off the list. A topless—elderly—woman poses for the villain, who paints a surrealistic picture of her on a large canvas. As the credits roll, we see wedding snapshots of MacGruber and Vicki posing in a number of sexual positions, still dressed in tux and white wedding dress as amused wedding guests look on.
There’s an almost unending stream of nasty innuendos and vulgar references to sexual acts and body parts. The putrid patter is so verbose and so varied I can’t begin to list it all here. (And you wouldn’t want to read it if I did.) One oft-repeated reference—that MacGruber will rip the villain’s penis off and stuff it in his mouth—leads to MacGruber finally opening the man’s pants to discover he has no penis. He lost it, the villain explains, in an earlier explosion.
MacGruber takes pride in his ability to rip people’s throats out, and we see him perform this bloody move several times. Blood squirts while MacGruber holds the neck flesh in his hands, often letting out a guttural scream at the same time. He keeps a tally of the maneuver, and in one escapade he shoots for a “turkey”—three consecutive throat-rips. When he “earns” it, he assails the fresh corpse with a “gobble-gobble.”
MacGruber and Piper shoot seemingly scores of henchmen, with the bullets’ impact often accompanied by sprays of blood. In one shootout, MacGruber uses Piper as a human shield, and the lieutenant’s torso is peppered by bullets. (Piper is wearing a bullet-proof vest, but MacGruber doesn’t know that.)
One henchman is crushed by a van. Soldiers are gunned down or gassed. (We sometimes see their blood-covered corpses.) One unfortunate victim survives a massive explosion (his face is horribly burned), only to be thrown off a cliff and shot full of lead on the way down. Once the body hits the ground with a bloody, messy thump, it’s further decimated by a handheld rocket launcher. MacGruber then urinates on the remains.
We see people get punched, kicked, head-butted, slammed, shot and blown up. We see a headline trumpeting one of MacGruber’s earlier exploits, crediting him with killing 200. A van full of men explodes. Blood spatters people at weddings. Vicky uses a pair of needle-nose pliers to try to pull a bullet out of MacGruber’s leg (near his groin).
It’s said that MacGruber talked Casey into aborting her baby.
After MacGruber blows up his first team, Col. Faith tells the despondent guy that at least their funerals were nice.
“I might’ve cut back on the f-words a little,” he adds.
Which would’ve been sound advice for the film itself. We hear the obscenity nearly 50 times. It’s even in the film’s theme song. The s-word is uttered at least 20 times. God’s name is misused about 15. (Several times it’s paired with “d‑‑n.”) Jesus’ name is abused five or six times. We also hear “a‑‑,” “b‑‑ch,” “b‑‑tard,” “h‑‑‑” and a handful of other foul words.
Obscene gestures are made repeatedly. MacGruber even manipulates a corpse’s hands to force them into a double-barreled nasty gesture. More than one of the characters’ names—used repeatedly throughout the script—flirt with vulgarities. One cozies up to the c-word.
MacGruber, Vicki and Piper drink beer. The villain drinks, too. At a party and in a Vegas nightclub, a whole lot of folks down the hard stuff.
MacGruber nurses a grudge against the owner of a car that cuts him off, filling a notebook with Shining-like repetitions of the license plate number and drawing graphic pictures of himself defecating on the offending vehicle. When he later finds the car, he keys it, smashes its windows and sets it on fire.
Similarly, photos from MacGruber’s wedding show him squatting over a body—seemingly that of the pastor—in a body bag.
MacGruber forces Vicki into a couple of very dangerous situations. Vicki admits that, in a moment of panic, she wet herself. People gamble.
So it’s come to this.
Someone, somewhere, thought that if you take a one-note skit spoofing a so-so show and augment the project with violence, vulgarity and outrageously sleazy sexuality, the result could be fun, funny and make lots of money.
Remember that bad, bad missile I started this review with? Well, don’t forget it. Because MacGruber is, artistically and culturally, a bomb of nuclear proportions. Not even MacGyver himself could salvage anything from this explosion.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.