Notes from the back row 

MacGruber's da bomb

Saturday Night Live has been on TV longer than I have been alive. It's had at least two "golden eras" and is widely considered one of the best shows of all time for off-the-wall comedy and astute political satire.

SNL-based movies, on the other hand, are among the worst cinematic crimes ever committed and are widely considered to eat ass-cakes for breakfast before heading off to work at the suck factory all day. Remember the androgynously awful It's Pat (1994) or that crap-pile Coneheads (1993) or, the worst of all, Stuart Saves his Family (1995) - a flick so embarrassing Al Franken had to go into politics (the old, do something worse to make people forget something bad trick.)

Sure, The Blues Brothers and both Wayne's Worlds were decent, and who can forget Tim Meadows' The Ladies Man (2000) but those were the exceptions that prove the rule. Luckily for us though, another one of those exceptions opens this Friday at the Village 8 when MacGruber explodes onto the screen.

Originally a skit based on the improvised heroics of the old MacGuyver series, the MacGruber film has the sense to take things a lot further and parody an entire genre of 80's action flicks and clich├ęs. Everyone thinks MacGruber (Will Forte) is dead but he's not. Instead he's called back into action and, with a couple sidekicks (Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe) must seek and destroy his old arch-nemesis Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer).

"Let's go pound some Cunth," MacGruber says at one point, and you'll find a similar level of lowbrow humour throughout - vegetables up asses and so forth. More mature audience members will likely call it stupid and juvenile but MacGruber is directed by Jorma Taccone from Lonely Island, the guys responsible for all the funniest stuff on SNL. Their digital shorts like Dick in a Box, I'm on a Boat or Lazer Cats 1-4, display brilliance and Jorma was also involved in my favourite comedy of late - Hot Rod.

Taccone, in his directorial debut, knocks it out of the park. MacGruber is actually really funny and Wil Forte plays the bumbling super agent perfectly straight. There's a real plot in this send-up and the film is shot and scripted in authentic '80s cheesedick Top Gun-style. Kristen Wiig is especially strong (Phillippe doesn't have as much to do) and in my opinion the R-rated MacGruber is certainly among the best two or three SNL flicks of all time (which isn't saying much), but also way, way better than you thought it would be.

For the kids, the ones who don't get sick of the same old thing, Shrek Forever After also opens this Friday - in 2D in Whistler and 3D almost everywhere else. This time around Shrek is not adventuring so much as brooding, mulling over his position in life and fatherhood. Not exactly themes that should appeal to the little kids out there but Shrek is a huge franchise, the first three flicks grossed over $2 billion. This one, despite the 3D and villain Rumpelstiltskin, looks more like a cash grab than anything else. Interestingly, director Mike Mitchell's best film before this is Deuce Bigalow so at least he's trying new stuff. Failing, but trying.

Meanwhile Sex and the City 2 opens next week and the Village 8 is throwing a sneak preview screening at midnight on Thursday, May 27. Which means it could be a slow hook-up night at the bars that evening. Best to lurk around the theatre I guess and see what kind of frenzy the Sex girls can whip up this time.




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