I'll admit it: On Sunday morning, I'll have a hangover. Not because of excessive drinking, though. (There are only so many Mint Juleps you can drink before your breath smells like a tube of Aquafresh.) But because I laughed so hard during Saturday night's installment of Saturday Night Live, there's little chance I don't wake up fielding a brutal stomachache.
But host Zach Galifianakis gave me little choice. Back at SNL for a third time, the host gave us so much, we're left wondering how The Hangover Part II could have gone so wrong. But let's rewind to the episode at hand!
After a Fox & Friends parody that was a bit too familiar to SNL fans — each one is becoming less distinguishable from the last — we finally got to the moment we've been looking forward to this entire week: Galifianakis' monologue, which he had already perfected his first two times on the series. Starting off the show with the same oddball deadpan we fell in love with in Live From the Purple Onion, Galifiankis waxed poetic about charades ("My wife and I once played charades with a couple who was deaf. They were amazing.") and stumping Google ("I once Googled, 'How many candles does Dave Navarro own?' Fourteen thousand."). The opening was so Raven, the perfect antidote to Season 38's subpar monologues, even if it was a bit less daring than a bearded man wearing an Annie costume.
Still, Galifianakis didn't stay out of costume for long, donning a dragon suit for the next sketch, "Game of Game of Thrones." Tapping into the obsessive fan culture for the HBO series (admit it, we're all guilty), the sketch featured the comedian as an enthusiast who knows everything about Westeros, but nothing about the real world. (Among the questions he got in the game show-centric sketch: What is the capital of Wisconsin?) Bonus points go to the sketch for featuring the under-appreciated Aidy Bryant and Game of Thrones star himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who popped by long enough to prove Galifianakis' ignorance about the Supreme Court.
And bonus points go to SNL's Match.com commerical parody for utilizing the also under-appreciated Kate McKinnon as an unlucky-in-love Martha Stewart. Her impression might not have been as on point as her others (hello Ellen DeGeneres!), but who didn't get a giggle hearing Stewart express appreciation for "tiered macaroons" and "the simple elegance of a good bang"? (Though why SNL didn't choose this prime spot to feature its hilarious New Balance add — advertising the shoe brand "worn by chubby white guys" — is beyond me.)
The episode's celebrity cameos didn't end with Coster-Waldau. Galifianakis' Hangover c0-stars Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms showed up for a severely under-rehearsed Jennifer Aniston look-alike sketch, which derived most of its humor from seeing the stars in blonde wigs. It was all worth it, though, to see that Taran Killam can add Rachel Green to his list of celebrity impressions.
Of course, Killam was easily upstaged by Bill Hader, who stopped by Weekend Update as James Carville to talk gun control legislation, his ghost grandma, and drinking sweet tea in Louisiana with Alligator Joe (who's called that "because he's an alligator"). So many of Hader's one-liners were so delicious ("I have nothing against guns. And I'm not just saying that because I look like a bullet"), I'd prefer them any day over a giant bowl of gumbo. Or, at least, I'd prefer them over Fred Armisen's Google Glasses-plagued tech correspondent and Cecily Strong's increasingly overplayed (and never funny) Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party.
It wasn't long until Galifianakis was back in a costume, this time as a racist, sexist, and homophobic M&M's World employee who expressed his distaste for his diverse staff "often through song." It's easy to imagine the sketch — which featured a good number of jokes that pushed racial boundaries — was a divisive one, but dammit if Galifianakis in a beret didn't make me chuckle.
What didn't make me chuckle initially was "Darrell's House," a bit about a deluded man marking a low-grade talk show in his home. All the elements were there — Galifianakis' patented absurdity, Jon Hamm references — but teasing a Hamm cameo and not delivering was like teasing a delicious Honey Baked Ham and handing us a piece of bologna. But, of course, the bit more than paid off when we watched "Darrell's House" later in the episode as it was meant to be seen, featuring the Mad Men star himself. And, as it turns out, waiting 20 minutes for the joke to pay off was well worth it.
As was Galifianakis' stint on SNL. Is anyone else going to be hurting tomorrow?
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Set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1940s—a favorite area of exploration for writer-director Guillermo del Toro—the story follows dreamy 11-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she’s uprooted and relocated to a remote military outpost when her sickly mother (Ariadna Gil) marries the wantonly cruel camp commander Captain Vidal (Sergei Lopez). With the compassionate but secretive housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) as the closest thing to a friend she has in the oppressive environment Ofelia escapes into a richly textured fantasy world. She follows a dragonfly she believes is a fairy into a landscaped but neglected garden maze she recasts as the lair of the goatish godling Pan (Doug Jones). He tells her she’s the last heir to a magical otherworldly kingdom and charges her with several tasks to help her reclaim her birthright. As her personal world grows more and more grim—the impending birth of her half-brother threatens her mother’s health her step-father grows colder and colder in his bid to crush the resistance and Mercedes’ hidden agenda places her in jeopardy as well—Ofelia soon finds herself tangling with hideous monsters both imagined and all too real often having difficulty distinguishing which is the more dangerous. The astonishingly real performance of the amazing young Spanish actress Baquero as Ofelia anchors the film firmly in both its real world and fantasy environments as only the convincing imagination of a child could. Lopez is an equally compelling discovery as the callous Vidal pitiless vicious and malevolent while still remaining believably human throughout. He’s unblinking in his depiction of a thoroughly vile and cruel man but avoids any aspect of cartoonish evil. And Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as Mercedes is a wonder as well with her remarkably expressive face unlimited by the film’s Spanish language barriers. Kudos too to Doug Jones a whisper-thin actor who specializes in “creature” roles (he’s played Abe Sapien in del Toro’s Hellboy and will be the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel) who somehow magically delivers fully-formed performances as both the faun Pan and the freakish Pale Man through layers and layers of latex. Pan's Labyrinth is unquestionably Guillermo del Toro’s finest film work to date as pure an artistic vision as is likely to be committed to celluloid. He wisely worked outside the Hollywood system in his native Spain to bring his dark tale to life. The story exists in that shadowy netherworld between childhood and adulthood innocence and awareness of the world’s more sinister nature and its characters and themes are explored in ways that no mainstream film would ever allow. On the surface the trappings are Tim Burton-esque but the dark corners Pan's Labyrinth peers into are grim and gloomy indeed; del Toro is never afraid to delve into the murkiest of directions that to audiences used to more conventional movies are heart-wrenching even gut-churning but ultimately emotionally honest and in unexpected ways as immensely satisfying as they are haunting. The film is the announcement of the complete arrival of a major filmmaker and we can only hope that the qualities del Toro brings to this work do not get lost in the maze of Hollywood for future films.