‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 39, Episode 17 with Host Anna Kendrick

By April 7, 2014
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If you became a fan of Anna Kendrick due to her fantastic performance in the musically-infused comedy Pitch Perfect, then this past weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” was more than just a treat. It’s a wonder that Kendrick did just as much singing and dancing on “SNL” as any of the hosts from the past who are only known for being chart-topping singers and don’t have an Oscar nomination for their work on film. But the best part of Kendrick’s stint on the late night sketch show was how seamlessly she fit in with the cast, making for what just might be the most enjoyable episode of the season.

The Best

 

Flirty – Take the typical meet-cute scenarios from countless romantic comedies, and add in the superb awkwardness of Kyle Mooney and Vanessa Bayer (that honestly isn’t all that exaggerated from real romantic comedies), and you’ve got comedy gold. I had to pause my DVR when Kyle Mooney pointed out the poop stains on his underwear. And Beck Bennett’s appearance at the end just sealed the deal.

 

Fox and Friends: Obamacare and Climate Change – This recurring sketch is always top notch, if only for the awesome one-liner corrections that I always slow down so I can read each and every one of them. But this particular sketch was made all the better by Kenan Thompson as Neil deGrasse Tyson, or as Vanessa Bayer says, “Lando Calrissian with his own Star Wars TV show.” And this was one of only a handful of sketches where Kendrick didn’t sing, and she was still able to show how comfortable she was being on “SNL.”

 

Principal Frye: Field Trip – Easily one of my favorite recurring characters, Principal Frye always cracks me up. But having Kendrick accentuate this sketch as an enthusiastic zoo employee thrown off guard by terrible students (“Bitch, you tell me.”) feeding animals terrible things like Four Loko was what really took it home. Also, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah need to have some kind of contest where they just yell at each other in their goofy voices.

The Average

(Editor’s note: This sketch has been removed by Hulu.)

Little Mermaid – Did Disney sponsor this episode of “Saturday Night Live” and not tell anyone? It would make sense since Anna Kendrick will star in their holiday release of the musical Into the Woods this year, but it’s probably just a coincidence that this sketch appeared in the same episode that featured the actress’ monologue taking a cue from the musical greatness of Beauty and the Beast for a hosting melody (you’ll see it below). This sketch could have been better, but Kendick’s way of mocking Ke$ha, Britney Spears and more bubble gum pop voices (plus doing some stupendous rapping) just made it thoroughly entertaining. That’s some damn good costume work too.

 

Big Joe – For a second, I though Anna Kendrick was even tinier than I thought, but Taran Killam was just wearing giant platform shoes as Big Joe, a sort of lovable, Frankenstein strong man who can’t lift rocks. This felt like one of those sketches that was going to fall flat on its face at first, but thankfully it worked well enough. The funniest part is all the townspeople picking up the rocks as if they were just as light as the props themselves followed by the extended passage of time.

Saturday Night Live - Best of White Guys

Best of The White Guys – Sportsball! The premise is pretty simple with white guys trying to be good at basketball and having their highlights DVD be nothing but moves and footage no one should be proud of. The commentary from Mike O’Brien (who is probably tied for whitest guy on “SNL” with John Milhiser) was pretty great, too. Finding an easily embeddable version of this sketch wasn’t easy, but you can watch it over here.

 

GM Hearing – Honestly, this sketch was fairly flat, and just felt easy and lazy. For some reason, the cold open sketches, which are consistently topical to headlines, have just been terrible this season. The only saving grace for this sketch was the greatness of Kate McKinnon. But what really save it from being the worst was Taran Killam full of rage, interrupting her attempt to do “Live from New York…” to get out of the hearing.

The Worst

(Editor’s note: This sketch has been removed by Hulu.)

Audition – The lovely voice of Anna Kendrick and a small bit making fun of Pharrell’s Smokey the Bear hat weren’t enough to save this sketch. Vanessa Bayer singing terribly, but not overly horribly, just didn’t click and this one should have been left behind at dress rehearsal.

 

Dongs All Over the World – Attempting to capture the similar magic of “(Do It On My) Twin Bed” from last year’s Jimmy Fallon episode, this one just didn’t work. It felt like a lady version of The Lonely Island, which would have been great if the song was actually clever. Not even the charisma and dedication of the cast and Anna Kendrick, joined by Icona Pop, could save this from being a dud.

The Weird

 

French Dance – This has always been a mind-blowing sketch to me, mostly because it always seems to get an inexplicable amount of laughs and I love it. There’s no English dialogue and it’s just a bunch of weird dancing. Since this recurring sketch hasn’t been done in about two years (I had to look that up), it makes me wonder if Kendrick (who looks great as a sexy French maid) requested to do it. As always, the dancing is the highlight, including a nod to Kendrick’s chart-topping single “Cups” from Pitch Perfect. But my favorite, most random part of the sketch was Jay Pharoah popping up as Chris Tucker’s character Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element.

Weekend Update

 

 

Thankfully, this week was leaps and bounds better over last weekend’s most disappointing Weekend Update segment yet. Colin Jost and Cecily Strong actually talked to each other this time, and it made for a funny little bit in the middle. Why can’t they do that more often?

 

Angela Merkel – Kate McKinnon as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a hit when Kerry Washington hosted last fall, and her return is just as great here. Someone needs to make a GIF of her doing “boob touching” immediately.

 

Brooks Wheelan – Is it weird that the only memorable moments that Brooks Wheelan has had on “SNL” come from his first and now second appearance as himself during Weekend Update? Unfortunately, as funny as this segment may be, I’m thoroughly disappointed. Why? Well, this is one of Wheelan’s regular stand-up bits that he’s merely transferred for a convenient Weekend Update appearance and that just feels cheap. I know comedians bring their repertoire of previous work to “SNL” with the hope of bringing some of their writing to the show, but this didn’t feel like a good example of that. Don’t be surprised if Wheelan doesn’t get invited back for next season.

 

George R.R. Martin – While this wasn’t quite as funny as I hoped, there’s something adorable about Bobby Moynihan as this old author overwhelmed by writing the expansive “Game of Thrones” novels.

The Host

(Editor’s note: this video has been removed by Hulu.)

Anna Kendrick is a national treasure; it’s only a matter of time before Nicolas Cage has an adventure trying to retrieve her. Kendrick not only came through on delivering what we hoped would be an incredible episode of “Saturday Night Live” but she even exceeded expectations (just watch that Beauty and the Beast monologue above). If only Kendrick didn’t have a career as a big name actress, she would have a great home at “SNL” as long as she can write sketches in addition to performing. It would be nice if Kendrick became one of those hosts who pops up often like Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, and Justin Timberlake, mostly because there should probably be a woman who joins their iconic ranks eventually.

The MVP

Saturday Night Live - Anna Kendrick

You know what, it was all Anna Kendrick this week, but the writers didn’t have to  focus on her celebrity and persona in the tabloids (which is practically non-existent), and that was refreshing. She just fit right in to every sketch and seemed like she had been doing sketch comedy her whole life, which is something that even the most accomplished actors and actresses have trouble doing in the unique live format of “SNL.” Let’s hope Lorne Michaels invites her back next year when Pitch Perfect 2 comes to theaters.

The Final Word

With the exception of the Jimmy Fallon episode that closed out 2014, this may have been the best of the season. While not every sketch was incredible, this episode was undoubtedly consistently entertaining, mostly thanks to Kendrick’s going with the flow and versatility, not to mention impressive comedic chops. Our only hope is that next time maybe Kendrick gets to take center stage a little more often.

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.