At the end of "Saturday Night Live," host Josh Brolin was vigorously hugging everyone on the cast and looked like he'd had a blast. He also looked a little drunk, which was maybe the best way for him to have gotten through one of the worst nights for a star on "SNL" yet. During the monologue, the "Men in Black 3" actor joked about the joy of getting to be "career-endingly stupid" on the show. Though it wasn't so bad as to end his career, it possibly should affect the job of the writers who thought this week's sketches were the best use of its host.
Best of the Night
Things seemed promising when Brolin came out to do his "Saturday Night Live" monologue, and was charming and energetic on a range of topics. He admired spring in New York, which included girls in short-shorts and guys in "tight capri pants," and explained his goatee was a contractual obligation in his capacity as "official spokesman for the 90s." We also got a tiny preview of his "Men in Black 3" role with Jay Pharoah standing in for Will Smith, with "tiny" sadly being the operative word. It reduced his upcoming film as "let's go shoot aliens," which, while true, may not have been the best promo for it.
Taran Killam got big laughs from the "Saturday Night Live" audience on sight for his role as Kit Harrington in the "Making of 'Game of Thrones'" sketch, perfectly decked out in a mop of dark curly hair and a giant fur coat. After recently thinking that the hit HBO show certainly knows how to pack in as much violent, sexual, and deviant behavior into an hour as possible, it was fun to see "SNL" name the two important consultants on the series: book author George R.R. Martin and...a 13-year-old boy. Samberg had fun with the gag, running all over set and consistently demanding that boring talking scenes be filled out with "boobs" and as much perversity as possible.
Some of the best moments on "Saturday Night Live" happen when the cast loses it, and while "The Californians" soap spoof wasn't at the top of that prestigious list, the audience got its share of laughs from the chaos. Bill Hader is the new Jimmy Fallon of the sketch comedy show, because as Fred Armisen totally sank his teeth into the bizarre Valley/surfer/snobby accent they were all adopting, Hader turned several shades of purple trying to hold back his mirth. Even Wiig was cracking up, and usually she's the one making everyone laugh with her exaggerated vocal inflections.
The parody had funny moments of its own, too, with the usual melodramatic plot of love affairs expressed in dialogue that included lengthy descriptions of which routes to take on California's maze of traffic-ridden roads. When Armisen told one of Wiig's lovers to get out and, helpfully, how to get home, Wiig protested: "At this hour?" Brolin also turned up to try his own version of the West Coast accent, and to stare dramatically into a mirror in compelling soap opera style.
It all went downhill after "The Californians," with the lone bright spot in the wee hours being a "Saturday Night Live" Digital Short with Andy Samberg and Killam as obsessive fans of Gotye. The jovial musical guest desperately tried not to laugh through his part as the two appeared in his dressing room, nude and covered in paint to match the wall art, re-enacting his video for "Somebody That I Used to Know." You can watch the digital short over on the "SNL" video site.
Worst of the Night
Whether the "Laser Cats" segment was the best or the worst of the night probably depends on what mood you were in when you watched it. On paper, it was amusing to have Steven Spielberg turn up to add his own spin to the laser-shooting cats drama, which included "E.A.T." the "Extra Awesome Terrestrial, villains with melting faces, and the "screw my family" ending "Close Encounters"-style. Like most of the "Laser Cats" segments, however, even if you're laughing, you're still thinking there must have been something funnier to put in this time slot.
I'm good with Stefon, "Drunk Uncle," and Nicolas Cage reappearing as Weekend Update guests, but "Saturday Night Live" needs to retire some of the others. Since Wiig is moving on from the show, it seems she's trying to get in all of her characters before she leaves, and hopefully this will be the last we see of the making-up-songs duo of Garth and Kat. There may have been a few funny jokes from Seth Meyers, but the too-long segment from the kooky-vest couple drowned everything else out.
Things looked promising when Nasim Pedrad and Taran Killam turned up late in the night on "Saturday Night Live" as the stereotypical captain of the football team and head cheerleader, looking Ken-and-Barbie blond, seen in super-slow-motion for extra dramatic effect. The gag turned out to be that they were actually caught in a super-slow-mo hallway, that affected everyone who entered it, including a nerdy kid that couldn't make it to the bathroom on time. The guest host turned up as a "Back to the Future" style crazy scientist, with no funny lines to utter, forced to try and make us laugh by looking goofy in slow-motion. Ho-ho...no.
There were some laughs scattered throughout the rest of "Saturday Night Live." Brolin managed to wring a few laughs out of the mostly irritating "Empire State of Mind" parody contest show sketch, busting out his hip hop moves to hilarious effect. Pharaoh did his best Jay-Z impression while rapping, but it didn't really gel in the moments when he was rating performances. Abby Elliot had a good line as Ke$ha, drawling indignantly, "My songs aren't parodies!"
While the guest host only had a few seconds as Ozzie Guillen putting his foot in his mouth on the Piers Morgan show, Pedrad stole the sketch with her whining Kim Kardashian, talking about her relationship/publicity stunt with Kanye West. When it was said Kim was like Beyonce, she shrilly droned, "but without the singing...dancing...or acting. I'm a zero threat!"
Pharaoh turned up as Principal Frye at the Booker T. Washington "Hunger Games" theme prom, and laughed his way through most of his lines. Brolin was thrown in as a drunk teacher, but his pawing of an underage student came off more creepy than funny. Vanessa Bayer was as usual excelled at being the uptight teacher making horrified expressions as the speakers got more and more insane. Kenan Thompson earned a laugh with "These people worked really hard to have this prom in the white part of town," and Pharaoh did score with his complaint about a student bringing an iguana as a date: "He went into the 'Hunger Games' trees and we can't find him."
The night had its moments of funny, and individual cast members got their turn to shine, but it was criminal how underused Brolin was. Since Pharaoh was used so heavily tonight, it was a huge oversight not to devote an entire segment to "Men in Black 3," which seems ripe for parody. The fact that the guest host is such a fabulous mimic of Tommy Lee Jones could have led to a funny riff on, say, "The Fugitive." Not necessarily timely, but that's never stopped "SNL" before.
Brolin does appear to have a knack for accents, so it's a shame they couldn't have made more use of that skill. The normally serious actor also appeared willing to push the envelope, so they could have had some wildly inappropriate Alec Baldwin-esque moments for him, but instead he merely got thrown in for a few cameos in the ensemble sketches.
"Saturday Night Live" musical guest Gotye did his hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know," and while he and surprise guest Kimbra recreated the tune pretty faithfully, it sadly didn't have as much crackle as the video. Gotye also performed "Eyes Wide Open," and seemed more relaxed on this livelier tune, which elevated the song and got a good reaction from the audience. While his vocal and musical skills are admirable, his on stage presence is a little "reserved geek," and he'll need to punch that up a bit to get more new fans.
What did you think, "Saturday Night Live" fans? Were you bummed Josh Brolin didn't have more to do, or did you feel the show had enough laughs anyway?
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