Home > Vulture News > THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Shrek’ Loses Its Charm The Fourth Time Out, ‘MacGruber’ Carries On ‘SNL’ Tradition Of Aiming Low

THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Shrek’ Loses Its Charm The Fourth Time Out, ‘MacGruber’ Carries On ‘SNL’ Tradition Of Aiming Low

Since the first one opened in 2001, the Shrek movies have grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide and spawned a Broadway musical. The latest movie in the animated franchise, Shrek Fover After, is the fourth film in the series and the first to be released in 3-D. It arrives just as theater owners have decided to raise the tickets prices on 3-D IMAX movies. The going rate is now as high as $20 in some markets. Time will tell if the exorbitant price increases will hurt ticket sales for the movie, which is opening in 2,737 3-D theaters, making it the largest 3-D release to date.

Its box office should be a barometer for how the rest of the 3-D movies that Hollywood is rolling out over the course of the summer blockbuster season will perform. Upcoming titles include Toy Story 3, Harry Potter, Cats & Dogs 3, Step Up 3-D and Despicable Me, which bears the distinction of being one of the only 3-D releases originally conceived of in 3-D, as opposed to converted after the fact (as was the case with Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans).

THE BUZZ: So-so. The fourth time is not a charm based on most critics’ responses.

Time’s Mary Pols thought the movie was a far cry from the original. She writes:

At the end of the fourth go-round, this Shrek seems so intent on being in touch with the times that it feels out of touch with itself. Can an ogre jump a shark? I think so.

Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum writes that the fresh ideas in the original now seem dated and hacky:

What was once a fresh, self-referential twist on the vulturish consumption of pop culture when the first Shrek debuted in 2001 has become a lazy corporate tic. Talking over the heads of kids, the enterprise counts on adult audiences to forgive the unoriginal storytelling and, one more time, settle for the game of spot-the-reference, never mind that the references crib from the works, songs, catchphrases, and punchlines of others for their charms.


The star of MacGruber, Will Forte, recently told the LA Times:

We had no restrictions placed on us. So at every point we were set loose to do whatever the heck we wanted to. Every step of the way, we kept thinking, ‘Oh, they’ll make us take this out,’ and that day never came. It was truly the inmates running the asylum.

With a $10 million budget, the stakes aren’t very high for the movie, which began as an SNL sketch before being stretched to big screen proportions. Lorne Michaels who produced the movie, knows the drill by now; spend low, aim low and hope for the best. It’s the well traveled path of previous movies SNL adaptations; a list a that includes the venerable likes of The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World to the less venerable likes of It’s Pat, The Roxbury Guys and Superstar.

The low budget comedy, which is an homage to the popular late 80s television show MacGyyver and also spoofs action films of the Reagan era, is part of a current Hollywood trend that is increasingly finding inspiration from the movies and TV shows of the 1980s. Later this summer Robert Rodriguez‘s Predator remakes will open along with a big screen version of The A-Team.

THE BUZZ: Mixed. Critics either liked or hated it and the majority had a hard time finding any reason for stretching the skit from 90 seconds to 90 minutes.

The New York Post‘s Kyle Smith went for the jugular, taking aim, first and foremost at its star, SNL cast member Will Forte:

There’s a reason you’ve never seen the words “Will Forte” topping the billing of a major motion picture. After the throbbing flameball of unfunny that is MacGruber, you never will again. This mock actioner, based on the Saturday Night Live sketch spoofing the ’80s show MacGyver, is all about TV: It features the pacing of C-SPAN, the production values of the public-access channel, the writing acumen of Home Shopping Network. The chief joke is that the bad guy is named “Cunth.” How bad is this movie? So bad that critics weren’t allowed to see it until four hours before it opened. So bad that to play the villain it was forced to hire the lumpy, inert remnants of what used to be Val Kilmer.

Among the few dissenters was Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers, who was charmed by the movie’s sense of humor:

How the hell can you take an SNL skit that runs 90 seconds and stretch it to a 90-minute feature? Sounds excruciating. But MacGruber breaks the jinx by putting the skit in the context of a 1980s action movie and creating its own brand of explosive lunacy.

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