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Film / MacGruber

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MACGRUBER! Making life-saving inventions out of household materials!
MACGRUBER! Getting in-and-out of ultra-sticky situations!
MACGRUBER! The guy's a fucking genius! MACGRUBER!

MacGruber is an Affectionate Parody of MacGyver originating on Saturday Night Live. The title character MacGruber (played by Will Forte), is (supposedly) a Special Ops agent versed in the most deadly forms of everything, the most infamous being his ability (or inability) to deactivate deadly explosives. This makes him somewhat of an Idiot Hero, who is ironically lauded for his expertise and viewed as a skillful agent, yet his bumbling goes unnoticed by some, including himself. Most sketches involve him being locked in a room (pretty much the exact same room each time) with some sort of explosive, his female assistant (originally Casey, played by Maya Rudolph; later Vicki, played by Kristen Wiig), and a strange assortment of tools and items. He happens to be able to use them to deactivate the bomb, but something personal always comes up to distract him before he can.

There is usually a third person in the about-to-explode room, making the sketches rather more interesting. Richard Dean Anderson himself was once said third person; apparently, MacGyver is MacGruber's dad. Hm.

Anyway, the sketch was sufficiently successful that it got its own theatrical-release movie in 2010, with Val Kilmer as the villain and Ryan Phillippe as his Hypercompetent Sidekick.

On August 10, 2020, Peacock ordered a TV series sequel to the movie. Forte, Wiig, and Phillippe reprise their roles with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Elliott, and Billy Zane joining the cast. The series premiered on December 16th, 2021. The teaser can be seen here.

General tropes:

  • The Ace: What MacGruber is claimed to be. He isn't. At all.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of MacGyver and Rambo. It's clear Forte knows and loves these characters, even as he mercilessly deconstructs them.
  • Cool Shades: MacGruber's aviator shades seem definitely designed to evoke this trope.
  • Does Not Like Guns: MacGruber. Unlike MacGyver, it's because he doesn't know how to use them and thinks they’re scary.
  • Informed Ability: MacGruber's status as a deadly badass who can get out of any jam. Played for Laughs.
    • One sketch series had MacGruber find out that everyone secretly thought he was incompetent, causing him to become needy and touchy-feely. And, of course, even worse at his job.
    • Taken to the extreme in The Movie where MacGruber is apparently a highly-decorated soldier who had accumulated numerous medals of honour during his years in service - despite not even understanding how to use a gun.
  • Jerkass: MacGruber is a colossal jerk who treats everyone around him poorly, is completely self-involved and is generally as boorish and unpleasant as possible.
  • MacGyvering: Averted, funnily enough.
    • In the sketches we see MacGruber ask for household materials, but the bomb always explodes before he has time to do anything with them.
    • In the movie, he tries (and fails) to make a grenade with a tennis ball, then he does (off-screen) a water-based prank, and finally in the climax (and recreation of the sketches setup), he builds an engagement ring out of wire instead of using it to defuse the missile.
  • Only One Name: The trailer for the movie even references this.
    Narrator: He's so top secret, we don't even know his first name.
    • Even his wedding vows in the movie refer to him simply as "MacGruber", as does a tombstone with his name on it.
    • The sketches with Richard Dean Anderson suggest MacGruber is his first name and that his full name is MacGruber MacGyver.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: MacGruber is a self-absorbed, idiotic, bigoted, misogynistic, obnoxious, thin-skinned and incompetent man who generally has no positive qualities whatsoever.

Tropes used in the SNL sketch:

  • Couch Gag: The final shot of the intros for each sketch differs, and tends to fit the context of Mac's current predicament (In one sketch series, we see MacGruber giving a thumbs up to the camera, proud of being sober for fifteen years, then drinking a beer, and then finally, drunkedly walking past the camera.)
    • The intro song also changes this way, starting pretty close to the page quote and drifting for each skit.
  • Cure Your Gays: MacGruber tried to do this with his son, played by guest host Shia LaBeouf.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Will Forte (the actor who plays MacGruber) sings the theme.
  • Every Episode Ending: The location exploding, accompanied by a shout of "MacGruber!", with the same superimposed over the shot of the explosion.
    • In the second of the Pepsi sketches, the "MacGruber" shout and title are replaced with "Pepsuber."
    • In the sketches featuring MacGyver, the flashbacks to when MacGruber was a baby end with a "MacGyver" shout and title.
  • In Medias Res: Every SNL appearance starts with MacGruber and his friends locked in with a bomb about to blow up, no explanation how they got there.
  • Jitter Cam: Used in the sketches, but not The Movie.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard
  • Magic Countdown: MacGruber nearly always has "twenty seconds" to disarm the bomb, but the sketch runs a good deal longer.
  • Only Sane Man: In some of the latter sketches, Vicki is the only character to not seemingly forget that there's a, you know, bomb about to go off. Sometimes, the second companion, usually played by the guest host, will join her in begging him to remember the bomb.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": "I just log into the website, put in my password, 'MacGruber'. Do not tell anyone, you guys, I'm serious."
  • Please Keep Your Hat On: When MacGruber was worried about aging, he wore a bandana over his head and it turned out he was bald underneath it. (He has a full head of hair in every other appearance, of course.)
  • Product Placement: Severely lampshaded in a MacGruber skit-cum-Pepsi ad from 2009's Super Bowl. In the first one, Mac is unable to defuse the bomb because he's too busy talking about or drinking a Pepsi, and announces he's legally changed his name to "Pepsuber." A later one (broadcast during an SNL commercial break) has changed the opening theme song, replacing most of the lyrics—and all of MacGruber's dialogue during the sketch—with a repetition of "Pepsi".
    MACGRUBER! Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi!
    MACGRUBER! Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi!
    MACGRUBER! Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi!
  • Recycled Set: Every sketch takes place on the same set, meant to be the "control room" of various places, with absolutely no effort made to disguise this. A Running Gag is that such a control room does not even make sense for some of the settings, such as a monastery.
  • Sensitivity Training: MacGruber has to go to this when he makes a racist joke.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Sometimes, the intro details how MacGruber is screwing up his personal life this week. Thus, the narrator will be describing what a loser MacGruber is while backed by macho music with shouts of "MacGruber!" The actual sketch has tense, adventure music playing on a loop which usually continues when MacGruber becomes sidetracked by some petty issue.
  • Stock Footage: The intro and the exterior of the location. Some of the intro footage is lifted from MacGyver itself.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Vicki replacing Casey when Maya Rudolph left the show. Vicki, therefore, gets to be in The Movie, where her last name (St. Elmo) is given for the first time.
  • Take That!: In "MacGruber: Coronavirus", MacGruber gets caught up in Far Right conspiracy theories online. It starts with MacGruber finding excuses not to wear a mask or get vaccinated, eventually culminating in him dressing like the QAnon Shaman and pretending like the bomb ticking down next to him isn't real.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Each sketch ends with the bomb going off and presumably killing everyone. Then they appear unharmed in the next segment only to be killed again. Oddly, the continuity of what was happening before the bomb went off is continued into the next segment.

Tropes used in The Movie:

MACGRUBER! He made a fucking movie! MACGRUBER!

  • Adaptation Expansion: SNL bits that were even shorter than regular sketches get expanded into a feature film, by making the film a parody of action movies.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: MacGruber eventually has to get down on his knees and tearfully beg Piper to join his team. He even offers to suck Piper's dick, allow him to fuck him, or to fuck something while Piper watches. All while sobbing.
    MacGruber: Just tell me what you want me to fuuuuuuuuuck!
  • Ambiguously Bi: MacGruber was previously engaged to another woman, and even gets engaged to Vicki. However, see Freudian Slip and Ain't Too Proud to Beg.
  • Ambiguously Gay: MacGruber turns down an old war buddy from joining his team once he sees the man in a homosexual relationship; however, this is only after MacGruber has recruited 5 other muscle-bound buddies in a montage loaded with homoerotic imagery, with the first recruit in particular implicitly even having a crush on him.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At the beginning of the movie, when meeting Mac, Piper gives a rundown of our hero's many, many impressive achievements, and ends with "...and starting tight end for the University of Texas, El Paso."
  • A-Team Firing: MacGruber has atrocious aim, shoots excessively, and can't even keep his eyes open while firing. Just as someone who has never used a gun would react if in a firefight.
  • Avengers Assemble: Subverted. MacGruber assembles a team of badasses—only to accidentally blow them all up.
  • Badass Boast:
    Colonel Faith: MacGruber, thank God.
    MacGruber: Your God can't help you, Jim. But I can.
  • Badass Crew/The Cameo: Comprised of Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, Montel Vontavious Porter, The Great Khali, and Kane.
  • Brick Joke: KFBR392. It only comes up twice and doesn't get mentioned for a good portion of the movie. Up until Mac finds the car at the graveyard and gets his revenge.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: After a shootout, Vicki says, "I peed my jeans. I peed 'em."
  • Bouquet Toss: During the credits, MacGruber's gay buddy catches the bouquet Vicki tosses during the wedding party. At least MacGruber was kind enough to invite him over with his fiancé and totally not because he's the only former military companion he didn't blow up.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Done literally to escape some thugs; MacGruber uses Piper as a human shield, and they both survive as Piper was wearing a bulletproof vest, but MacGruber didn't know that.
  • Call-Back: When crashing Cunth's party, MacGruber briefly excuses himself to take an "upper-decker" (defecating in the water tank of a toilet, rather than the bowl). Later, during the climax, Cunth says "By the way, thanks for the upper-decker you left in my toilet."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Even MacGruber isn't immune to saying "fuck" throughout the film.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Mac goes to recruit Vicki for his team, a photo in Vicki's house shows both Vicki and Casey in their costumes from the SNL sketches.
    • The climactic scene where MacGruber is attempting to disarm the missile is staged just like one of the skits, right down to the background music.
  • Cool Car: MacGruber's red Mazda Miata.
  • Country Matters: The villain is named "von Cunth". It kind of sets the tone for the whole movie.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: von Cunth makes it very clear to his men that however idiotic Mac might seem, he's not to be underestimated under any circumstances. After all, he won all those medals fighting in conflicts all over the world without ever using a gun and stopped an assassination plot on Jimmy Carter.
  • Daddy's Little Villain/Put on a Bus: In one scene, von Cunth is playing a poker game with a beautiful femme fatale and MacGruber asks if they are screwing; it turns out this is von Cunth's daughter. Oddly, other than standing around in another scene about a minute later, she is never seen again.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: The ads like to run a quote praising this film for being the best SNL movie since Wayne's World. That is not saying a lot.
  • Death by Cameo: All the wrestlers featured in the Avengers Assemble sequence are immediately killed.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Mac learns the hard way that C4 isn't something You store unsafely in Your trunk and setting up an elaborate trap and taunting Your villain aren't great ideas in a time-sensitive espionage mission.
  • Disney Villain Death: Cunth gets a hilarious version of this. MacGruber throws him off a cliff, shoots him with bullets as he falls (and is still alive at this point) until he finally hits the ground, which kills him. But then he shoots the corpse with a grenade launcher and urinates on it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • After visiting his dead wife's grave, MacGruber finds the car of the guy who laughed at him in Vegas. He smashes its windows and sets it ablaze.
    • Also Diether von Cunth, whose hatred for MacGruber all started because MacGruber stole his girlfriend... while she was pregnant with Cunth's child... which MacGruber convinced her to abort without telling Cunth. You know what? Screw "disproportionate", MacGruber's a Jerkass.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Mac insists that "he don't roll that way" without giving a good reason why he refuses guns in favor of pitifully MacGyvering up gadgets. When he's actually handed a gun, he learns that firing a gun is awesome but is terrible with it.
  • Double Entendre: "Time to pound some Cunth."
  • Expansion Pack Past: When MacGruber is introduced, we are told of his many tours of duty in pretty much every branch of the military. Many would be impossible because they occur at the same time or the war was simply too short to accommodate all of them. MacGruber would have to be a hundred-year-old man with a time machine to squeeze them all in.
  • Fan Disservice: Equal-opportunity!
  • Fire-Forged Friends: MacGruber and Piper start out actively disliking and insulting each other, with MacGruber even using him as a human shield without knowing he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. However, by the end of the film, the two of them finally learn to work together.
  • Foreshadowing: In the opening credits we briefly see MacGruber working on a gadget involving a cup of water, ropes, pulleys, and a door. He uses this gadget near the climax.
  • Freudian Slip:
    MacGruber: If rippin' throats gets that warhead back, I'll suck as many dicks as I got... Uh, rip as many throats as I have to.
  • Fun with Subtitles/Gratuitous Spanish:
    MacGruber: You're loco, man!
    Subtitles: You're crazy, man!
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Casey when MacGruber tells Piper about how he, she and Cunth were college friends and she agreed to "terminate" her and Cunth's baby to start fresh when she left him for MacGruber. Piper comments "That's really fucked up" and Mac thanks him thinking that he's referring to Cunth killing the love of his life.
  • The Grunting Orgasm: Mac's expressions during sex are a piggish and rather disturbing series of odd grunts.
  • Groin Attack: Double subverted. MacGruber tries to cut off Cunth's penis, only to find out that it was already blown off in the explosion.
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive: The C4 in Mac's trunk seems to go off by his crew pounding on the crates. Considering it was homemade, it might not be the most stable stuff.
  • How Did You Know? I Didn't:
    Piper: How did you know I was wearing a bulletproof vest?!
    MacGruber: You were wearing a bulletproof vest? Awesome!
  • Human Shield: Piper puts up with a lot of nonsense from MacGruber, but when MacGruber uses him as a human shield, Piper quits the team.
  • Hypercompetent Side Kick: Pretty much Piper. He's the only rational person on MacGruber's team and usually has to do most of the fighting.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: MacGruber is capable of ripping throats out like in Road House (1989).
  • Indy Ploy: MacGruber's preferred strategy is to "see what happens." Which is not the same as winging it.
    Piper: What is the plan?
    MacGruber: I kinda make it up as I go.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: MacGruber tries to catch Cunth with one of these after the stolen nuclear warhead is brought up. "I never said it was a nuclear warhead". Cunth's response? "Oh, that's right, because most warheads are filled with air."
  • Informed Ability: Averted. Lieutenant Piper thinks MacGruber's penchant for throat rips is a load of hot air...until Mac rips a throat right in front of him during their attack on Cunth's headquarters.
    • Possibly played straight with MacGruber's various military honours at the beginning of the film. We never see how Mac earned such achievements at all.
  • Insult Backfire: MacGruber compliments the attractive woman present at Cunth's poker game. Then tells her to have fun getting date raped by Cunth. The woman turns out to be Cunth's daughter.
  • Ironic Echo: "The game has changed!" "But the players are the same!" - Spoken respectively as MacGruber refusing Colonel Faith asking him to help locate the X-5 and bring down Cunth, and then as MacGruber begging to be kept on the case after he blows up his team.
  • Jerkass: Despite being a highly-decorated soldier, MacGruber is a jerk who's willing to destroy the car of someone who laughed at him and use Piper as a human shield. He's a pretty big jerk in the SNL sketch as well, which has at various times portrayed him as petty, racist, alcoholic, vain, homophobic, and possibly sexist.
  • Left the Background Music On: Played with a couple of times. Both times involved MacGruber not liking the music playing on the car radio and changing stations to something lame.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: How Dieter flees the destruction of his headquarters to attack MacGruber one last time.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Spoofed, as he arms himself with floss, thumbtacks, and bottle caps. And celery.
  • Mythology Gag: The climactic scene is framed and shot just like one of the SNL skits, with MacGruber calling for random items as Vicki says "You got it, MacGruber!", while alarm klaxons go off.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: When one of the guys MacGruber tries is shown to be in a relationship with another man, MacGruber urgently crosses his name off of the list.
  • Only Sane Man: Amongst the three lead characters, Piper is by far the most competent and level-headed.
  • Refuge in Audacity: MacGruber's plan to distract a bunch of snipers so Piper can take them out? Walking out and dancing in the middle of the wide open space the snipers are watching... while completely naked, cupping his genitals and with a piece of celery in his ass. And it fucking worked! Piper takes after him when he regains some respect for MacGruber. It distracts Cunth's henchman long enough for Mac to do his thing.
  • Rearrange the Song: The MacGruber theme song is redone as a film epic version, complete with an orchestral choir in lieu of the rock 'n roll macho singing from the skits. And Mac gets to show off his saxophone skills, too.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Piper looks through MacGruber's notepad of clues. He isn't surprised when the first page has no clues, but he comes across his increasingly erratic scribbling about the "KFBR392" guy. The license plate number is covered across several pages ending with crude drawings of Mac shitting on the guy's car and face. Piper just shuts it and tosses it to the side.
  • Running Gagged: MacGruber repeatedly threatens to rip off Cunth's dick and shove it in his mouth. He finally gets the chance to say "Hey Cunth... suck your own dick!" Unfortunately, Cunth's genitals were burned off while escaping the explosion. MacGruber is crushed that he lost his opportunity for ultimate revenge.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: MacGruber, twice when mocked by Cunth. The second time, Cunth actually becomes exasperated at his stupidity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Rambo III with MacGruber being a Retired Badass living as a monk in Ecuador similar to how Rambo is introduced living in a Thai monastery, before his mentor/superior arrives with the Call to Adventure.
    • Possibly to the ending of Return of the Jedi when MacGruber sees the luminescent ghosts of his deceased war companions greeting him during the wedding.
  • Signature Move: MacGruber's Mortal Kombat-esque throat-ripping ability.
  • Splash of Color: The Monochrome Past Flashback Nightmare MacGruber has about Casey's death during their wedding leaves the Book Safe bomb at the altar, the light of its remote trigger (turning from red to green) and the flames of the explosion colored.
  • Stunned Silence: Piper, when MacGruber explains his and Cunth's history and showing in no uncertain terms that Cunth has every reason to want to seek his revenge and MacGruber still won't comprehend that he did anything wrong.
  • Stylistic Suck: The two songs written by Vicki ("The Perfect Number", which Vicki sings when MacGruber tries to recruit her, and "Rock my Body" which airs over the end credits) have terrible lyrics.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Making your own explosives and packing them in a car yourself with no protection is a really bad idea as MacGruber finds out the hard way.
    • When MacGruber opens up the nuclear warhead in the climax so he can diffuse it, he's surprised to discover that there's actually dozens of wires inside instead of the usual three colored wire bombs he usually deals with.
  • Take a Third Option: In the climax, when MacGruber realizes the missile is too complicated for him to diffuse the normal way and it's close to launching to destroy Washington D.C., he decides to simply remove the nuclear warhead and guidance system so it will just explode inside the base like a regular bomb.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: MacGruber's final revenge on Dieter von Cunth involves throwing him over a cliff, shooting him as he falls, launching a grenade into his corpse, pissing on his corpse, and later taking a dump on his body bag.
  • Two-Faced: Dieter von Cunth after surviving the explosion of his lair.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Dieter von Cunth survives the explosion of his lair and returns to crash Grubes’ wedding. This is most likely a reference to Murdoc, the most recurring villain on MacGyver, who had a tendency to survive things that would kill a normal man. This time, though, Grubes makes sure Cunth is dead.
  • Unflinching Walk: Grubes does this after destroying the "KFBR392" car, but is interrupted by the owner of said car.
    Car owner: Hey, what the fuck?
    MacGruber: Fuck you, asshole!
    *MacGruber runs to his car*
  • Unstoppable Rage: Grubes goes into this right as Cunth cuts off his trademark mullet and verbally mocks him.
  • Viewers Are Morons: Played for Laughs, see Fun with Subtitles above.
  • Villain Opening Scene: Played very, self-consciously straight in contrast with the rest of the movie.
  • Wedding Smashers: Cunth caused Casey's death widowing MacGruber by setting off an explosive at the altar with a remote control. Subverted in the ending, when Cunth attacks MacGruber and Vicki's wedding ceremony but Vicki avoids dying while Grubes kills him for good.