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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

‘MacGruber’: it’s the bomb

I find it wonderfully ironic, and just plain wonderful, that the asinine MacGruber — about the guy who can never stop a bomb from going off in his his face — bombed at the box office this weekend. (Maybe it’s not the end of civilization after all!) Estimates put it in sixth place, with takings of $4.1 million, and while it’s not inconceivable that when the actual numbers come in, it could overtake Just Wright at No. 5 (estimate: $4.23 million), I suspect MacGruber will see its earnings drop to under $4 million.

Nothing will change, however, the fact that this is the worst debut ever for a Saturday Night Live film in wide release, and the worst debut for any film released in more than 2,000 theaters so far in 2010.

Now I’m counting down the moments until Universal execs come out and explain that the reason the movie flopped is because its intended audience of teenaged boys was kept away from the film because of its pesky R rating.
This is where MacGruber gets sociologically interesting, if in a thoroughly depressing way, as yet another indication of Hollywood’s almost total irrelevance to anyone with an IQ in the triple digits or a mental age above 12, and of the sad ironies of America’s cultural decline. MacGruber is considered an “adult” movie — that R is for “strong crude and sexual content, violence, language and some nudity” (Will Forte thought it would get slapped with an NC-17!) — and yet it can only truly be appreciated on its own level by the sexually and intellectually stunted, or by those who haven’t actually grown into adult sexuality and intellect: i.e., 12 year olds. Or if you deliberately dumb yourself down to that level (though I fail to appreciate why anyone would want to relive being 12 again). Even its adherents admit that the movie juvenile… and this is meant to be its great selling point.

One of the commenters to my review of the movie suggested that MacGruber is “a niche market movie.” But alas, it is exactly opposite that. As I noted in response:

Niche movies open on four screens in arthouses in big cities. This, on the other hand, is a mainstream movie opening on thousands of screens, expected to draw a mainstream audience and make millions of dollars in its first weekend alone.

Indeed, most predictions pegged MacGruber for an opening in the mid teens.

I’m trying to take it as a positive sign that the film bombed. I don’t expect, however, that this brand of humor will disappear anytime soon. It is, alas, usually much more popular than this.

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