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“MacGruber” and “Holy Rollers”

“MacGruber” and “Holy Rollers” (photo)

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If you saw any the SNL sketches or the Super Bowl commercial featuring the nimrod government agent MacGruber — basically Richard Dean Anderson’s MacGyver by way of “The Jerk” hero Navin Johnson — you know to expect from the film that bears his name: five or six inspired bits, surrounded by padding.

MacGruber (Will Forte) is a former super-soldier who spent 10 years hiding out in a monastery following the murder of his fiancée (Maya Rudolph) on their wedding day. He re-ups in service of the good ol’ USA (represented by his commanding officer, Powers Boothe, a forceful, strange actor who’s stifled by this glowering boss part) and tries to thwart a nuclear plot orchestrated by the very man who killed his beloved, an arms-dealer, terrorist and former college buddy of MacGruber’s named Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer, who has aced this kind of material ever since “Top Secret” and is effective if slightly underused here). He’s joined by fellow agent Vicki St. Elmo (Kristin Wiig, whose deer-in-the-klieg-lights reactions are the film’s best asset) and a straight-arrow second-in-command, Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe, turning metrosexual intensity into a comedic style).

Between MacGruber’s fetish for throat-ripping, his agonized post-coital groans, his inclination to prance around with a stick of celery up his ass whenever a diversion is called for, and his tendency to offer blowjobs and anal sex to anyone who’s said “no” to him for any reason, he’s the weirdest, most pathetic action hero since Lt. Frank Drebin.

05212010_Macgruber2.jpgForte plays him with a maniacal gleam. But something feels off. This actor can be hilarious in the right movie, such as the aggressively off-putting “The Brothers Solomon,” yet he’s only sporadically amusing here. It might be because the film, co-written by Forte and directed by Jorma Taccone, makes MacGruber less a deranged-but-gifted loner with an artist’s mentality (a character Mike Myers used to play often and well) but a preening fool.

That creates a disconnect between Forte and his world, which (aside from stray, surreal moments involving the supporting characters, such as the glimpse of Von Cunth painting a portrait of a topless grandma) comes across as a colorless, grimly efficient version of the world depicted in most R-rated, B-list action-adventures. When you see how ruthlessly focused most of the bad guys are, you start to wonder how a doofus like MacGruber could have ended up in their orbit — which surely could not have been the point.

Another related problem: except for the throat-rips and an admirably revolting bullet-removal gag, “MacGruber” stages its violence too straightforwardly. All the action should have been way, way, way over the top, sanctified with gratuitous slo-mo and drenched in fake-looking gore. How else to parody a genre in which excess is the norm?

05212010_MacGruber7.jpgStrike three is the movie’s failure to rise to the heights of similarly conceived but more imaginative spoofs — a category whose leading lights are Shane Black’s ass-kicking screwball comedy “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (which co-starred Kilmer) and Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s puppet opus “Team America: World Police.”

And from its rah-rah opening credits song (a pale cousin to “America (Fuck Yeah!)”) to its overwrought sex scenes (which aren’t nearly as deranged as the spectacle of marionettes shtupping like porn stars), “MacGruber” unwisely invites unflattering comparisons with Parker and Stone’s loony-bin classic.

Bottom line: “MacGruber” is less a movie than a movie-flavored product, 99 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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