MacGruber Failed At The Box Office: Blame It's Pat
More wily than Batman, more deadly than Superman, less of a creep than The Shadow and the same amount of awesome as the Most Interesting Man In The World, MacGruber is the ass-kicking, throat-ripping, homophobic hero that pessimistic, cynical assholes like myself have been waiting for. He’s great. He’s that dick without a filter, a refreshing throwback who never got the politically-correct memo. He says all the things Chuck Norris and his code of honor can’t. He’s a girlfriend-stealing, C4-making, fly by the stem of his celery American hero who instigates fights when he’s bored, defaces corpses when he’s feeling swirly and uses devoted allies as human shields when he feels like living.
I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t know there was an R-rated Tim ‘The Tool Man Assassin Scientist Badass’ Taylor out there. Yeah, there is. And instead of knowing that exists, you’re busy just discovering it exists. I’m only playing the math here, but if MacGruber made less than five million dollars last weekend and the average movie costs over five dollars, there’s less than a million of us out there who know that exists. You’re probably not one of them. Usually, I’d blame this sorta thing on operator error, take responsibility for your own actions and all that jazz, but, no, if I’m forced to choose one single entity culpable for you not knowing the awesomeness of MacGruber, it’s the man who made MacGruber possible in the first place: Lorne Michaels.
When Saturday Night Live first came on the air, it was edgy, provocative and daring. Its first few seasons featured stand-up comedy from the likes of Pryor, Carlin and Kaufman. It had musical guests like Frank Zappa, a Howard Shore-fronted house band that occasionally dressed up like nuns, and a staff of writers led by the legen---wait for it---dary Michael O’Donoghue. It may not have always been funny, but it was always doing something original. Hasn’t been tried before? Let’s put it on the air and see if it works. That was the attitude. It’s not that the original cast never repeated characters, the bees and the samurai were on enough, but they were by no means an every week thing.
In fact, it was the Blues Brothers, long used by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to warm up that crowd before shows, that were the first to get their own feature film. They weren’t the most famous or the most popular characters, but from a creative standpoint, that was actually a bonus. The audience had no preconceived notions about where the movie would go or what form it would take, but when Wayne’s World, the second SNL film to be released, made a hundred million dollars using a more generic launching point, Lorne Michaels mistakenly saw an opportunity to lather, rinse and repeat.
From 1993 to 2000, eight more films based off Saturday Night Live sketches appeared. Most were unequivocal failures; a lucky few barely broke even. Disaster isn’t even a strong enough word to describe the savage beating SNL’s credibility took. It was merciless. The once ground-breaking show became a laughing stock, a pathetic brand catering to Middle American teenagers who thought it was funny when Mary Katherine Gallagher smelled her armpits. Instead of buoying an idea, a film with a credible seal, the SNL stamp became one of tarnish, of tired mediocrity, a sad National Lampoon co-conspirator with enough name recognition to garner a few million rentals and a few million more I’ll-see-it-at-some-point’s.
So, Lorne Michaels gave up. He put the kibosh on the SNL film jugger-not and played for another day, waited for another idea worthy of its own film. Well, that idea has finally come and, as expected, the general public isn’t so much luke-warm to the idea as they are apathetic. I can’t say as I blame them. They have no reason to expect MacGruber to be anything other than recycled drivel, given the last decade-and-a-half of steady normality, given Lorne Michaels’ shaky track record, but this film is so much more than a thirty second sketch extrapolated to sell tickets. It’s original, it’s unique--but, more importantly, it’s fucking hilarious.
Let’s put this another way. Let’s say you had a party and beforehand, a buddy of yours asked if he could bring a few hot chicks. You obviously said yes, and when he showed up, these chicks he brought were bombshells. Prime Elizabeth Shue’s. They all knew how to have a good time, and instead of congregating in a little group, they all mingled and charmed the pants off everyone. Now, let’s say you had another party and this same friend asked if he could bring hot chicks again. You obviously said yes, seeing how things went down before, but this time, the girls he brought were only decent. They had a few laughs and maybe one of them even let herself be felt up in a closet, but on the whole, they didn’t really bring much to the table. At the next party, the chicks were slightly below average. Then they were downright ugly with bad personalities and phobias about looking anyone directly in the eye. And on and on it went until all parties involved just agreed to give up. You stopped having parties and he stopped associating with women entirely. For the good of decent society and all things right and true, you just had to sever your relationship by mutual agreement. But now it’s ten years later, and this dude says he’s got some hot chicks he wants to bring to the party. You know you shouldn’t trust him. God knows he’s lost that a long time ago. But it’s been ten fucking years. He’s come through before. Maybe he’s onto something now? Maybe these chicks are gorgeous. Maybe, in spite of it all, he’s rediscovered the touch. Well, spoiler alert: MacGruber is the hottest chick Lorne Michaels has brought around since The Blues Brothers, a solid 8.5, and you’re only depriving yourself by holding on to past grudges.
Lorne Michaels has given you every reason not to see MacGruber. It’s Pat, Stuart Saves His Family, Superstar, they have ruined what was once a hip mark of approval. It doesn’t matter. MacGruber is awesome, a future cult classic to be discovered by Netflix ninjas with a yearning for R-rated obnoxiousness. You’re gonna discover it at some point. Don’t let your lack of confidence in Lorne Michaels keep you off the ground floor.
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Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.