Disney fans, this was a Saturday Night Live for you.
Going into the episode, it seemed likely there would be at least one musical sketch moment. After all, Anna Kendrick was a Tony nominee when she was just a teenager, starred in the cult classic Camp, and is perhaps best known as the lead in the a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect, which somehow spawned a huge radio hit for the actress with her cover of “Cups.” (Don’t worry. That was – cleverly – spoofed last night as well.)
While a little singing seemed to be a safe bet, no one could have expected that the show would go full Disney princess, with no less than four music moments by Kendrick. The program wholly embraced the host’s musical side, and likely recruited a few more fans eager to see Kendrick’s upcoming interpretation of Cinderella in December’s highly anticipated (and slightly feared) adaptation of the musical Into the Woods. (Other upcoming Kendrick musical performances: The Last Five Years and Pitch Perfect 2.) While the show – and Kendrick – were more charmingly amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, this episode will still go down in the “success” column thanks to a combination of clever writing, higher-than-normal energy, and a host that somehow rapped more than Drake did a few months back.
The whole thing kicked off with a spoof of “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast for Kendrick’s monologue (complete with a Lorne Michaels sighting!). While I would have liked to see a few more punchlines in the song, Kendrick’s angelic voice was a nice treat, and lyrics such as “Was that supposed to be a Scottish brogue?” still made this a silly – and promising – opener. (The less said about the actual cold open, a dull General Motors hearing spoof, the better.)
When we first went under the sea, I assumed it was going to be another R-rated Ariel like Reese Witherspoon gave us in 2001. Instead, it was a chance for Kendrick and the writers to show off the actress’ pipes. The skit was naturally going to work better for people who have a fondness for singing “Part of Your World” into a hairbrush. But I suspect Kendrick’s charm – “Oh no, it’s OK. It’s Iggy Azalea and she’s white” – helped the sketch land for others as well. Bonus: Aidy Bryant is quickly becoming a national treasure, and her full commitment to Ursula, which included milking lines such as “That was not a voice. That was a baby having sex” about Kendrick channeling Britney Spears just made the whole thing goofier. Unfortunately – as will be the theme of this recap – musical rights prevent the sketch from being online.
I know this recurring sketch is divisive, but French TV teen drama Les Jeunes de Paris once again had me laughing. The energy was top-notch, Taran Killam really has great chemistry with Kendrick, and I tip my Pharrell-inspired hat to the writers, who came up with a fun way to call out Kendrick’s massive success with “Cups” in an unexpected way. It’s too bad we didn’t get a bit more of it – audience gasps show the fan base is still very much there. #CrushedIt (Literally).
Attention teachers and students: Kendrick – much like Drake earlier this season in a similar role – totally committed to her part as an instructor/tour guide, but the laughs just weren’t there for another installment with the kids from Booker T. Washington school, featuring Jay Pharoah’s Principal Frye. (Worst sketch also could have gone to Big Joe, but I gave the edge, as it were, to the recurring character that needs to end.)
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It was no “Twin Bed,” but “Dongs” – a clever parody of all the songs about men traveling the world and bragging about their sexual conquests – was yet another inspired musical moment. Lines like: “196 countries/ And that’s a lot of dongs/ All I packed is travel shampoo/ And 1,500 thongs” and “We’ve got to catch them all like sexual Pokemon” had me chuckling – as did the pitch-perfect (sorry) hair and costumes. I would have been satisfied just when the whole thing took a Wolf of Wall Street twist into an Icona Pop-starring, out-of-control party on an airplane, but Kendrick showing off her rap skills – not to mention crimped hair – put this song up there with some of Lonely Island’s best. (But where was Nasim Pedrad?)
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It was another surreal – but ultimately successful – outing for Kyle Mooney, this time with his pre-taped ode to awkward love. This could have failed spectacularly; instead, both Mooney and Vanessa Bayer landed the crucial timing and physical comedy of two shy people trying to declare their feelings for one another. Each fake-out was a nice surprise, and the ending – “I’m just gonna go f— this guy, then we’ll go on a date” – allowed for the rarest of SNL moments: a sketch that ends both well and at the proper time.
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This skit had everything: an earnest Vanessa Bayer character, Rent, Pharrell’s hat, PHARRELL WILLIAMS himself. The conceit had Pharrell playing himself choosing a back-up singer, while two sisters auditioned together. Thanks to Bayer’s commitment, the whole bit made people – including a delighted Pharrell – happy. Of course, the secret best part was Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson both suddenly wearing replicas of Pharrell’s ridiculous, endlessly spoofed hat. While I wish he didn’t do it so much in the sketch, we all learned Pharrell can laugh at himself – and may be a secret Renthead.
The sketch isn’t available online, so watch this Pharrell performance instead:
Kate McKinnon. Sentences I never thought I’d write: McKinnon can really mouth “dongs” in a particularly funny way. Between the all-ladies, Bridesmaid-esque trip on a plane and her Angela Merkel impression on Weekend Update – “Working with Putin is like being cornered at a party with a guy who just started CrossFit” – it was another standout week for one of SNL’s biggest stars.
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-“I’m a modern-day Columbus, and I claim this dong for me.”
-“If you’re going to do Britney, you do ‘Toxic.’”
-Crimea is not related to Queen Latifah.
-“You know this song is about lovers, right?” “It’s about sisters.”
-“A Whisper of Yells” or “A Bunch of Clocks”?
-Poor Brooks Wheelan. One of his few appearances was once again as himself on Weekend Update, giving advice, this time about the Dangers of Excessive Drinking. (“Drink responsibly or you could be stricken with an STD you’ve created in your own mind.”)
-“I saw a documentary about a town that was always cold because of a princess.”
Is this seriously the only joke we’re getting about Frozen? In a night of Disney princesses, was there really not a way to do an Elsa sketch with Kendrick?