‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 39, Episode 4 with Host Edward Norton

By October 28, 2013
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SNL - Edward Norton

Following the rough but laid back return of Bruce Willis hosting “Saturday Night Live” a couple weeks ago, Moonrise Kingdom co-star Edward Norton took the stage this time in Studio 8H. No, Norton doesn’t have a new movie or TV show coming out (though his wasted monologue served as both a platform for Alec Baldwin to promote his new MSNBC show and Miley Cyrus to cameo and tell everyone she’s going on tour again), and that made this episode all the more enjoyable. So let’s run through the night’s sketches.

The Best

 

New Horror Trailer – Following the unveiling of the trailer for Wes Anderson’s new film The Grand Budapest Hotel just over a week ago, “SNL” imagines what it would be like if the director ventured into the horror genre with this trailer for The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, and Edward Norton kicks it off right with a spot-on impersonation of frequent Anderson collaborator Owen Wilson. The trailer takes most of its cues from The Royal Tenenbaums (which would work surprisingly well in a surreal horror film), including having Alec Baldwin as the narrator, and we wouldn’t mind if Anderson actually made this film at some point.

 

Autumn’s Eve – From the makers of Summer’s Eve comes this new feminine care product to go along with all the other pumpkin spice scented and flavored junk that’s out there this season. Why shouldn’t a woman have the sent of the festive fall air between her legs? The commercial runs just a tad too long, but the visual cues are great, and pretty much as ridiculously fanciful as the shots used in real commercials of this nature. We’d actually like to see the Christmas Eve one play out one day.

 

School Visit – Sometimes Nasim Pedrad nails a quirky little character and it makes a sketch work better than we could have thought. Such is the case with this little gem that features a lecture about “Stranger Danger” gone terribly wrong at a school where kids think that a guy with candy in his van doesn’t sound like a half bad idea. Bonus points to Kenan Thompson and Bobby Moynihan for adding some extra silliness to the sketch.

The Average

 

Drug Deal – Yes, Rain Man came out 25 years ago, so it’s not exactly topical, but Edward Norton as a savant-like character in the same vein as the Dustin Hoffman character was a nice twist on a joke that’s been referenced and made plenty of times. But the premise of a drug deal utilizing the character was enough to make it feel fresh, especially with Taran Killam seemingly looking like a less exaggerated Brad Pitt from Killing Them Softly and a Bobby Moynihan who looks straight out of “The Sopranos.”

 

Critter Control – Brooks Wheelan is finally on the gameboard with this wholly strange but entertaining sketch of a critter control call gone wrong. The descriptions of the off-camera antics are what make this funny, not to mention Norton’s dedication to the silliness and redneck nature of his character, and the escalation to the crazy side of things was a nice way to end, something that “Saturday Night Live” frequently has problems doing with their sketches.

 

Obamacare Website – Since this is all over the news and getting lampooned like crazy across the board (especially by “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”), it was inevitable that “SNL” had to use the Obamacare website troubles as their topical cold opening. At the very least, the references to old school technology like Encarta ’95 and medical website porn puns made this fun, plus Kate McKinnon can pretty much sell anything at this point.

 

Halloween on The Steve Harvey Show – It’s a simple gimmick by making Steve Harvey have the brain of a small child, but Kenan Thompson’s innocent, vacant smile and clueless nature had me cracking up as he just couldn’t guess these punny Halloween costumes. It’s kind of a long way to go for such simple humor, but it was pretty damn amusing for the most part. Plus, Norton’s character gave me some flashbacks to Death to Smoochy, which this writer actually enjoys immensely.

The Worst

 

Ruth’s Chris – In a sketch about a group of virgins at a restaurant talking about what they think they’ll do when they finally have sketch, they certainly didn’t have any ideas about how to make it funny. Making weird body and hand motions to imitate your uneducated sex hype isn’t enough to bring the laughs, and this sketch was just awkward to watch. It felt like something you had to watch because your friend was in it, and you weren’t sure how to compliment them after the show, because there was nothing redeeming about it.

 

12 Days Not a Slave – Jay Pharoah didn’t have a whole lot to do on the show tonight, and this sketch that not only felt shoehorned into the show, but also felt like a bad Eddie Murphy vehicle, didn’t help matters any. While I’ve been a fan of “SNL” parodying topical movies like Gravity, this send-up of 12 Years a Slave fell flat on its face. The only amusing moment came from Aidy Bryant, but otherwise this was a complete dud. It also served as the second pointless Miley Cyrus cameo of the night, and that just solidified that it was a waste of time.

The Weird

 

Halloween Candy – At first, I thought the graphics department messed up and the shot of the jack-o-lanterns was supposed to have some sort of graphic explaining that this was a John Waters hosted Halloween special, but it turns out it’s just a creepy, flamboyant, Vincent Price-looking father doing a rundown of Halloween goodies in the most odd but hilariously entertaining way. Thrown in the curly haired Bobby Moynihan as his equally weird son, and this was a home run.

Weekend Update

 

Cecily Strong just keeps getting better as she co-anchors Weekend Update with Seth Meyers, and we think she just might be able to host it on her own by the time the head writer moves over to “Late Night,” but we hope that she’ll have a co-anchor to join her since the one-two of that dynamic really works. But I think we’ll be fine either way.

 

Anthony Crispino – It’s funny to me that this sketch has gone from being just a secondhand take on the recent popular headlines to taking the high-voice of Moynihan’s character to an extremely silly place. This time they use Mariah Carey’s insanely high voice as a substitute, and it’s that kind of variance in the humor of this character that keeps him from getting boring as a recurring bit.

The Host

SNL - Edward Norton as Owen Wilson

 

Though the monologue was one of the worst things from the night, that was Edward Norton’s fault. The forced appearance of Miley Cyrus, which added nothing to the comedy, was just pointless, and Baldwin’s use was a good idea, but just executed in a boring way. On the plus side, we got to see Norton knock out two awesome impressions of both Woody Allen and Woody Harrelson. Norton was having a good time the entire night, showing that despite his intensity as a dramatic actor, he can get goofy with the best of them.

The MVP

SNL - Kenan Thompson and Bobby Moynihan

Bobby Moynihan/Kenan Thompson – This week, the portly duo each had a hand in the best sketches of the night, sometimes popping up only briefly but still offering big laughs. Moynihan and Thompson are each gifted in their ability to look like vacant, childlike characters and making them work, and they showed that very well throughout the episode. Plus, now that Bill Hader is gone, Moynihan might have the best recurring Weekend Update characters now.

The Final Word

With a laid back host, and some truly clever and odd writing, I think it’s safe to say this might be the best episode of the season so far. There was much more to like than there was to criticize, and bringing in someone like Norton for the first time worked much better than one might have thought. Now if only we could have kept Miley Cyrus from destroying what goodwill she created from hosting a decent episode a few weeks ago, this might have been a near-perfect show.

This week there will be a Halloween special clip show on Thursday at 8/7c, and our next review will be for the November 2nd episode featuring host Kerry Washington.

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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.