The stars were out in Austin on Monday night, as enthusiastic cast members Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, and a black-clad, turquoise bootlace tie-wearing Val Kilmer, along with friends like SNL’s Seth Meyers and comedian Paul Scheer, came out to celebrate the world premiere of MacGruber (in theaters May 21). The sketch-to-feature adaptation, SNL’s first since the Ladies Man (2000), follows the exploits of a doofus soldier of fortune (played with terrific idiocy by Forte) as he tries to take down his arch enemy (Kilmer) who happens to be in possession of a nuclear warhead. Kilmer’s character, who fancies painting aged women in the nude when he’s not wreaking havoc on the world, is named Cunth. If imagining the possibility of riffs on such a name makes you snicker, as it did the genial Austin crowd, this is the movie for you.
I appreciate the value of event movies like MacGruber at SXSW. They attract big crowds, they offer glitter that’s usually only tossed in the air on New York and Los Angeles red carpets. But to me the real highlight of a proper film festival is when you stumble into a small theater and find yourself falling for something raw and undiscovered and wholly surprising. My favorite movie so far of this year’s SXSW is a little comedy, at once wistful and wonderfully dry-witted, called the Happy Poet. Shot here in Austin the film tells the story of one debt-ridden man who attempts to change his lousy fortunes by opening up a vegetarian food stand. It sounds modest. It is modest! But damned if my heart didn’t swell during the film’s great climax—to say nothing of the last shot that left me touched to the point of tears. Austin filmmaker Paul Gordon, who wrote, directed, edited, and starred in the movie, ought to be mighty pleased with himself.
What say you PopWatchers? Are you psyched for MacGruber? Are you nervous about Val Kilmer’s expanding girth? Who else out there in SXSW-ville has a favorite film to recommend?