Two of this season's best episodes of Saturday Night Live came when some of its most distinguished alums returned to Studio 8H. Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph brought back their same comic energy that made them breakout stars on the show and gave the 37th season of SNL a jolt it so desperately needed. The same couldn't necessarily be said for this season's third hosting alum Will Ferrell. While the (typically) funny man revived some old favorites, the whole affair felt surprisingly unceremonious.
Kicking off with a crowd-pleasing cold open which featured the actor doing his famed George W. Bush impression ("[Mission accomplished] is something I like to say when a problem isn't solved and I don't want to talk about it anymore," he heh-heh-heh'ed to Jason Sudeikis' childlike Joe Biden) the night seemed poised to have some more classic Ferrell moments. Mission not exactly accomplished.
After a sweet and silly opening monologue in which Ferrell brought his own mom on stage to wish her a Happy Mother's Day from the heart (or, from the "brain place to my mouth hole") and a hilarious faux allergy medicine commercial in which he played a man with a horrendously loud sneeze with a wife at the breaking point (a sketch-stealing Kristen Wiig) it was time to bring back another old favorite. Yes, with a little help from friend Ana Gasteyer, SNL fans were treated to another musical journey from the Culps. This time around our favorite middle school music teachers (still wearing their same fashionable getups, naturally) brought their unique musical stylings to an LGBT-friendly prom. It gets better: They performed the likes of Adele's "Rumor Has It," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It," and Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart." I was sort of hoping they would sing one of the runes from musical guest Usher (whose performances of "Scream" and "Climax" were solid, if not a little unmemorable) but it was still the best kind of high school reunion. But, that's all folks. At least, when it came to classic Ferrell characters. There was no Alex Trebec or James Lipton or even Robert Goulet. The rest of the episode was marked by originals and while they weren't all bad, we probably shouldn't be expecting a fourth Best of Will Ferrell DVD anytime soon. Especially not thanks to overlong sketches like the ESPN Classic Ladies' Golf Long Drive 1994 (though the return of fellow alum Will Forte is never a bad thing), the ho-hum 2012 Funkytown C-Span debate (relying on funny costumes and names does not a successful sketch make), the dreadful "Broadway Sizzle" (not even Ferrell's cry of "Fudge me to dern!" could save this one) or the dead-in-the-water awkward anniversary dinner speeches made by weird cousins (including Forte again.) Where's Bill Brasky to save the day when you need him? That son of b***h. In fact, the episode's highlights were from (mostly) Ferrell-less moments. While the funny man appeared in the epic 100th Digital Short bonanza, so did Usher and his mentee Justin Bieber, a rapping Natalie Portman, Michael Bolton /Captain Jack Sparrow, Justin Timberlake, and Jon Hamm (Sergio!) In honor of all things Digital Short, from Shy Ronnie to Laser Cats, Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone celebrated the best way they knew how by, well...you know what, just listen to the song yourself to find out: In case that wasn't enough star power for you, Liam Neeson dropped in for a visit during the always-funny Weekend Update "Get in the Cage with Nicolas Cage" segment. The stoic Taken star squared off against Samberg's wonderfully deranged take on the eccentric actor for the most hilarious moment of the night. (Even Seth Meyers couldn't stop giggling at the madness.) Neeson, or Tall Bono, if you will, could do nothing more than listen on as "Cage" wondered why he wasn't in Battleship ("It has all the elements of a Nic Cage movie. One, it's based on a children's board game. And two, you don't need to speak English to enjoy it") and describe himself as having "the skin of a sundried Gremlin and the hairline of a Puerto Rican Beetlejuice." For the record I would see both Cage's Hungry Hungry Hippos movie and one in which he and Neeson kidnap God. Check out the hilarious visit here: It's hard to call this a lackluster episode of SNL what with the star-studded 100th Digital Short and the Neeson appearance (turns out he has a knack for comedy after all) but it definitely needed something else for its host that was desperately lacking. Ah, yes, I think I know what it was: More cowbell. Am I crazy in thinking this was a disappointing episode of Saturday Night Live? Or would you agree that, in comparison to Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell didn't rise to the challenge quite the same? Which sketch was your favorite? Least? What did you think of Usher's performances? Did you think his funky appearance in the Funkytown sketch actually brought the most funk? Sound off in the comments section below. [Photo credit: NBC] More: Will Ferrell's Saturday Night Live Promo: Catch the Thrill! Will Ferrell vs. Zach Galifianakis: Cast Your Campaign Vote! Usher and Justin Bieber Releasing Two Duets
1. Career Advice for Tom Cruise
The problem plaguing Tom Cruise was clear. Everyone was angry with him for taking himself way too seriously. There was the whole "psychology is made up" strangeness, the video where he talked about how he was an authority on the mind, and the oddball Oprah couch zaniness.
Then he did Tropic Thunder in an effort to tell the general public "Hey, I can make fun of myself too! Look, I'm harmless!" And, you know, it kind of worked, though he’s not all the way back just yet.
So I'm proposing a radical solution for what ails Cruise, at least so far as public perception is concerned. I don't think the musical thing is the route to go. He needs to take a bold step, and that step is towards Paul Thomas Anderson's now dead anti-Scientology project. Finance that puppy and release a press statement that says the following:
"In an effort to support the freedom of expression, religion, and speech I've signed on to Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." I'm still a proud Scientologist, but I recognize that it takes different strokes to rule the world. I worked with Paul previously on "Magnolia," and though he does about 100 takes of the same scene, I'm willing to follow him down the rabbit hole once again. After all, the last time I was nominated for an Academy Award was with PTA, he's as gifted as they come. Hopefully, this project will show everyone I'm ready to act, seriously act, again.
Watch your back, Daniel Day-Lewis!"
This would work! Because the problem was that Cruise took himself too seriously, so we couldn't take him seriously. He parried with the comedy, allowing us to continue not taking him seriously. Now, for act three, he's got to go all Yoda on us. Back to serious craft, Mr. Cruise, and don't dilly-dally. Hit us with the good stuff, the "real" Tom Cruise, the guy who gave life to characters in The Firm, Rain Man, and A Few Good Men. People will support you T-sizzle, if only you give them half a chance.
2. About That Ghost Rider 2 Budget ...
I'm amazed that Ghost Rider 2 has a budget above $263 dollars. Because I see the expenditures as follows:
$100: To buy the original comics, which clearly no one read before shooting the original.
$50: Six tickets to see Paranormal Activity 2, which was made for FIFTY TIMES less money than Ghost Rider.
$63 Hair products for Mr. Cage.
$50 To Purchase vintage Atari 2600 to handle "flaming skull" CGI if unable to find the previous one they used.
Everything else in the budget should be donated to charity. Terrible movies shouldn't get sequels, and they sure as heck shouldn't get sequels that cost more than a trip to the Dairy Queen.
3. Taylor Swift, Jake Gyllenhaal, and the Return of Gangster Rap (Sort of)
I generally stay away from personal relationships and gossip, because really, who cares, but I'm forced to enter the fray for this particular thought exercise.
You see, Taylor Swift recently took a bat to Camilla Belle (10,000 B.C.) with the following song:
The lyrics to this hit piece are tremendous for a few reasons:
1. It's about Joe Jonas (pronounced Yo Yonas).
2. Joe Jonas dated Taylor Swift, and then dropped her for Camilla Belle, causing Swifty to write this little ditty.
3. She alleges Belle is best known for her work on the mattress? Hey now!4. The lyrics hold Jonas blameless, he's just a pawn in the larger Swift vs. Belle battle, the closest approximation we've got to Tupac vs. Biggie going at the moment.
5. In fact, Joe (Yo) Jonas (Yonas) is an object, because you can't "steal" a person.
6. She hates Belle's vintage dresses.
7. She despises Belle's continual frown.
8. She feels Belle's prep school upbringing didn't infer her a level of sophistication.
Simply delightful. Now then, to the news of the day, our girl Swift is dating none other than Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, I hope everything works out and they get married, as I hope everyone gets married, because I am married, and it is a cult. But if it doesn't work out, can you just imagine? Could we be headed for another classic Swift takedown? Might it go a little something like this?:
I just saw Brothers and you know that film sucked on wheels /
And when we dated I towered over you when I wore high heels /
But now we're broken because of sex scenes you did with Hathaway /
Guess she doesn't know that Swifty gonna make her pay/
And so on, and so forth. Taylor Swift could be the entertainment gift that keeps on giving, because very few artists are compelled to bring personal vendettas into their work. It was pretty much just rap and Carly Simon prior to this. Ideally, perfect world, Jake Gyllenhaal can then make a retaliation film called Swift Justice. C’mon, you know you’d watch that.
On that note, I hope you have a weekend free of angry relationship rhymes.
Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.