Let’s face it: Those three-minute “Saturday Night Live” sketches that morph, however improbably, into feature-length films have a tendency to flat-out bomb more often than not (ahem, “It’s Pat”).
But there are those few SNL flicks — think “The Blues Brothers” or “Wayne’s World” — that are box-office hits and get snatched up on DVD, with memorized lines flooding into mainstream lingo.
“MacGruber” — based on a recurring sketch spoofing the ’80s TV series “MacGyver” — hits the big screen today, and, based on recent screening at the University of Colorado, is a sure fit into the latter category.
So how can that goofy skit about an inept, mullet-sporting action hero be transformed into a 99-minute feature?
That’s the question that bounced through the minds of writers Jorma Taccone, John Solomon and Will Forte, who assembled at Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel last month to promote the film.
“Even for people who like the sketch, it’s hard to imagine it in a full movie form,” said Forte, an SNL castmember, during a visit to Boulder last month to screen the film. “When we were first approached with the idea of turning it into a movie, we thought it was a little crazy.
“We just hope people give it a chance because it’s way different than people are expecting.”
Way different, indeed. It’s witty — albeit lewd as hell.
The movie — starring Forte in the title role, plus SNL castmate Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer — follows MacGruber as he tries to save the world with household materials.
Taccone, the film’s director, said making the film PG-13 to snag a wider audience was never an option. They knew it was going to be “very raunchy.”
Phillippe, who joined the film’s writers during their recent Boulder visit, said “MacGruber” differs from other SNL films with its shocking jokes.
“That’s what allows it to resonate and stay with you,” Phillippe said. “Some of those (SNL) films in the past were real clever as they tried to please a larger audience. But this film needed to be pretty raw in order to have an impact.”
After acting in largely dramatic roles for the past 16 years, Phillippe said he enjoyed the venture to comedy.
“I loved it. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had professionally,” Phillippe said. “I was such a fan of these guys and their work on SNL and I felt like I was really lucky to be there and to experience something completely different.”
The crew shot the low-budget film in an “intense” 28 days, Taccone said.
“It got to a point where we’d read the schedule and just laugh,” Taccone said. “But we thought, ‘Well, we’re gonna get it, because we gotta get it.’ And the coolest part was that we all still had a really good time shooting in that short crazy period.”
Forte joked that the box office goal is $1 billion.
“Obviously we want the movie to be a success, because that means people like it,” Forte said. “But we can all live with however it does financially because we really believe in the thing and we know that we’ve made the movie that we wanted to make.”
Scenes with people ripping their enemies’ throats out, explosion noises harmonized with obnoxious cougar growls and a power ballad-laden soundtrack all pay homage to film and TV classics such as “Roadhouse,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Commando” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Wait. Who watches “Walker, Texas Ranger”?
Taccone, Solomon and Forte, apparently.
The trio said they were lucky to have an important supporter behind the film: SNL producer Lorne Michaels.
Michaels paid a visit to the set when Forte filmed a sex scene with a ghost in the cemetery (yes, you read that correctly).
“I cinched up my cock sock — the old tiny change purse you put your genitalia in — and I turned around and looked back,” Forte recalled. “And Lorne has his cell phone camera out and is taking a picture of me completely naked. And then he’s like, ‘All right, I’ve got a flight to catch — see you guys later.'”
Taccone added, “He’s always been a huge supporter of MacGruber.”
“MacGruber” may just end up being this summer’s “The Hangover.”
And as Phillippe said, “For some people, this is going to be their favorite film for a while and they’re going to get it on DVD and watch it over and over again.”
During filming, Taccone said, he kept waiting for the minute when a producer would tell him he “can’t do that on screen.”
But it never happened.
“We just want people to know that we made something that we did not compromise in any way, shape or form,” Taccone said.