The past five years have been very kind to Anna Kendrick. She had an Oscar nominated performance with Up in the Air, a Top 40 single from Pitch Perfect, and is currently set to appear in six movies this year alone. Seriously, you better get comfortable seeing Kendrick because she is going to be everywhere for a long time. Last night was her first time on hosting duties but her skyrocketing popularity means she’ll come back. The same exact thing can be said about musical guest Pharrell. I’m pretty sure that guy is planning to take over the world soon. He directly contributed to two of the biggest songs of 2013 and “Happy” is already shaping up to become one of 2014’s smash hits. Sheer popularity alone brought these two to Studio 8H, and hopefully their natural talents can make this an entertaining show.
Anna Kendrick’s monologue was something special. While it wasn’t particularly hilarious, it was an incredibly well done musical number that apparently was Beauty and the Beast themed. Kendrick started off doing musical theater but Pitch Perfect showed the world as a whole that she has incredible singing talent. It also had a very big “Aw shucks!” feel to it as the entire performance was about Kendrick being thankful for the gig. This still works for Kendrick because it was only two years ago that she really became ingrained in the public consciousness. Hard to believe that a Top 40 song would do a better job at that than an Academy nomination, but that’s how it went. It was awesome to get another Lorne Michaels cameo too. His typical “I don’t give a shit” look is always great.
That Little Mermaid segment was hilarious too. It was essentially The Little Mermaid brought into the modern era of absolutely terrible pop music. Remember how Ursula wanted Ariel’s gorgeous singing voice? Of course you do! The Little Mermaid is a classic. This time around though, Kendrick’s Ariel preferred to sing songs by Ke$ha and Selena Gomez, much to the chagrin of Aidy Bryan’s Ursula. It really was funny to watch Kendrick perform a variety of different songs all for the purpose of absolutely confusing Bryant, who is always reliable when it comes to being fully embracing character. It was also a very clever way to address the exceptionally low standards some people have for music nowadays. You don’t even need to be a good singer to have a hit song anymore.
I’m going to be honest, I had no idea what was going on with that Les Jeunes De Paris bit. It was basically a hodgepodge of cast members and references to things like The Fifth Element, Madeline, and even Kendrick’s hit song “Cups.” Its entire punchline was sheer absurdity, and I loved it. Some of the best skits are the ones where the cast members look like their having fun and this was really one giant party. The fact that everyone involved was able to maintain their composure throughout was impressive too.
There were a lot of musical numbers last night (I’ll touch upon that later) but the worst was easily “Dongs of the World.” This was a song that had potential to be funny. It had all the talent involved to make it something really special. Yet it was so obvious that its punchline was how funny it is to say “dong.” Was anyone keeping count of how many times this word was said? It had to be more than 50. I know the writers can do better than this. They have many times at the past! Remember their parody of “The Fox” on Kerry Washington’s episode? That was hilarious. “Dongs of the World” was far from that.
The pre-recorded segment right before Pharrell’s first performance (it was “Happy” obviously) was such a dud too. It revolved entirely around Kyle Mooney awkwardly asking out Vanessa Bayer. It went on way too long and it never had the opportunity to really take off. The only great moment came at the very end when Beck Bennett straight up asked Bayer to sleep with him. It was sudden and unexpected, which is what makes it funny. Mooney however almost always plays an awkward character. It really becomes predictable humor, and predictability turns jokes stale.
The final minutes of any SNL episode are usually such a gamble. The viewer is tired, the cast members are exhausted, and any concept of “smart humor” has already passed. While there have been some absolute gems this late in the show, most skits usually try to keep the punchlines simple. Enter in last night’s Big Joe. This skit entirely revolved around a man named Big Joe (Taran Killam) being exceptionally weak despite his immense size. I’ll admit I chuckled when it was initially proven that the rocks were really light, but it got old very quickly.
I guess I should have expected that. Last night’s SNL was almost one giant musical number. More than half the show had moments entirely dedicated to music and yes I’m including Pharrell’s absolutely spectacular performances. While some of the musical bits really fell flat (like the horrific “Dongs of the World”), most actually worked in the show’s favor. It really gave it one hugely upbeat tone. I really loved how the show didn’t fall back on Kendrick performing “Cups” either. Seriously, we’re all tired of that song now. Kendrick’s unending energy was infectious too. The show was all about being active and performing, not just standing there and reading cue cards. Kendrick was very funny too but that’s hardly a surprise considering her strong acting chops. All in all, Kendrick is a great job on her first time out.