DID YOU READ

“MacGruber” avoids a bomb.

“MacGruber” avoids a bomb. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

To answer the immediate question at hand, “MacGruber” is in fact the funniest “Saturday Night Live” spinoff since “Wayne’s World” in 1992.

But as anyone who follows such things knows, that isn’t necessarily high praise. In the years in the wake of the success of “Wayne’s World,” many recurring characters were granted the feature treatment, mostly after they had already been run into the ground by the show. But films like “Superstar” and “A Night at the Roxbury” seemed driven by creating opportunities for a cast that had not become stars yet on any other night but Saturday and hadn’t yet developed film ideas of their own.

Jorma Taccone and Will Forte were given test runs before getting the keys to the car, with Taccone cutting his teeth on “Hot Rod” and Forte doing the same on “The Brothers Solomon — both films filled with a world of weird — in advance of tackling what is the first sketch-to-film adaptation since 2000’s “The Ladies Man.” The result is an idiosyncratic mix between avant garde comedy, ’80s action bluster and pop cultural tomfoolery that sometimes gets bogged down in its own bizarre behavior, but more often than not delivers the goods.

As Taccone said during the film’s post-screening Q & A at SXSW last night, “We really weren’t trying to be too spoofy with it,” and even though “MacGruber” pokes fun at such action tropes as the getting-the-team-together montage (featuring a parade of WWE stars) and the softly-lit sex scene between the lead and his love interest (set to Mr. Mister’s “Take These Broken Wings,” no less), it mainly works in the way that Forte’s best sketches do — by taking gags further than anyone else would dare. Perhaps that’s why there’s no real allusion to the skit other than an operatic rendition of the “MacGruber” theme song to open the film until the final act, when the audience is worn down to the point of submission by the MacGruber’s heretofore unknown obsession with Blaupunkt car radios or his willingness to drop to his knees to give any of his superiors oral sex when they threaten to block his mission.

03162010_macgruber03.jpgThe movie MacGruber is quite a bit different than the TV one, throwing around “F”-words with wild abandon and willing to shove a stalk of celery up his ass as a diversionary tactic. He’s also got a partner in Ryan Phillippe’s straight-shooting Lt. Dixon Piper and a foe in Val Kilmer’s Dieter Von Cunth, a billionaire who has his sights set on blowing up the U.S. government with a nuclear missile. (The latter has a fondness for painting abstracts of nude octogenarians.) There’s not much more to the plot, except the presence of Kristen Wiig as MacGruber’s reliable assistant Vicki St. Elmo, who harbors a not-so-secret crush on her mullet-lovin’ boss, but then again, there doesn’t actually need to be. Forte’s commitment to the character is admirable and although I thought I had tired of the character around the time of the infamous “MacGruber” Super Bowl spots from a year ago, that was before seeing him outside of a bunker in his red Mazda Miata with a fixation for kicking ass and ripping out throats.

In front of a crowd that included “SNL” scribes Seth Meyers and Akiva Schaffer, as well as Kilmer, who didn’t appear on stage when the cast was called up (“Classic Cunth,” Taccone joked), the cast and crew marveled at finishing the production in less than a month, with an ebullient Phillippe shaking Taccone’s shoulders and exclaiming, “This motherfucker shot this in 28 days!” (Taccone will have a chance to get him back when Phillippe hosts “SNL” on April 17th.) Phillippe went on to explain he would bite the inside of his cheek or dig his index finger into his thumb to keep from laughing opposite Forte, though he went to even greater lengths to get the part after attending a table read before the film was greenlit. “I wondered why my agent wouldn’t let me do something like this,” Phillippe said, before convincing his handlers to go up for the role. Given the track record of these types of adaptations, you can’t blame them, but unlike what happens at the end of every “MacGruber” skit, the film doesn’t self-destruct.

“MacGruber” opens wide on May 21st.

[Photos: “MacGruber,” Rogue Pictures, 2010]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.