Top 25 SNL Alumni Movie Performances: Numbers 25-21

It’s time for another list on this here blog of mine and Saturday Night Live has been on the mind lately. With The King of Staten Island garnering solid reviews and serving as a launching pad for the film career of current cast member Pete Davidson, I’ve decided to compile my own personal list of top 25 performances from the 45 years of SNL alumni.

And this is sure to be a list where many moviegoers would have their own choices that do not reflect my own. Obviously SNL has a rich history of performers that have made the transition to the big screen and there are lots of notable comedic (and some dramatic) highlights.

A couple of notes before we start with numbers 25-21:

  • There are couple well-known actors that I chose to leave on the cutting room floor due to their very brief tenures on the show. Ben Stiller was a cast member for only 4 episodes and Laurie Metcalf was a not ready for prime time player for exactly 1 show. That didn’t seem like enough to include them. In short, if you lasted a season or more on SNL, you are eligible.
  • This list is undeniably dominated by men. That’s just a fact. On the other hand, if I did a list that included TV (which I may after this), you would certainly see a more substantial presence of former female performers. Think Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and their acclaimed small screen work.
  • We have a couple of cinematic legends like Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray and I could have chosen plenty of their roles for inclusion. I tried to limit that, but you will see them make quite an impact in the top 25.

And with that, let’s get to the list!

25. Jan Hooks, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

OK, maybe this is cheating a little bit since Ms. Hooks (who was brilliant on SNL) gets about three minutes of screen time in Tim Burton’s team-up with Paul Reubens for his iconic character. Yet her work as the cheery tour guide with the southern drawl is so memorable that I couldn’t leave it off. Six words: “There’s no basement at the Alamo!”

24. Bill Hader, It Chapter Two (2019)

Hader has been one of the most versatile cast members in recent times and has had memorable film roles in Superbad and Trainwreck, among others. I include this horror sequel because he was the undeniable bright spot in an otherwise inferior sequel.

23. Will Forte, MacGruber (2010)

Count me in as one of the ardent defenders of this SNL spin-off featuring Forte doing a feature length version of his idiotic MacGyver like role. MacGruber was a box office flop upon release but has since turned into a deserved cult classic (with a rumored sequel happening).

22. Tina Fey, Mean Girls (2004)

Before her fantastic work on 30 Rock, Fey wrote this hit comedy that has spawned a massive following and a Broadway musical. Her work as a teacher here served as a springboard to an impressive TV and movie career.

21. Billy Crystal, When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Crystal has certainly had his share of hits, but I’ll give the nod to his romantic leading man role opposite Meg Ryan in Rob Reiner’s blockbuster.

That does it for now, folks! I’ll continue the list with numbers 20-16 in short order…

Oscar Watch: Love, Gilda

In a year filled with documentaries focused on legendary figures, Friday sees the limited release of Love, Gilda. The pic recounts the life of original SNL cast member Gilda Radner, including her time on that landmark show, her marriage to Gene Wilder, and her battle with cancer. It features interviews with her contemporaries and admirers including Chevy Chase, Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader.

Gilda first screened last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival to positive, if not overly praising reviews. It sits at 83% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. As mentioned, from Won’t You Be My Neighbor? to Quincy to RBG to Jane Fonda in Five Acts to McQueen, 2018 has been loaded with high-profile docs.

Bottom line: while Gilda may well please her many fans, I don’t see this making the cut in this year’s loaded race.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The House Movie Review

I’m not sure if I’m “spoiling” anything here, but Jeremy Renner takes a break from franchises and shows up in the final third of The House. Playing a bad guy, the mere fact of his presence is meant to elicit laughter because… well, I’m not entirely sure why. That’s emblematic of the film itself. You have a lot of famous performers (most known for their comedic skills unlike Renner) trapped in a flimsy concept that only manages to wring less than 90 minutes of material. And there certainly isn’t an hour and a half’s worth of funny.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are Scott and Kate Johansen, a middle-class couple about to become empty nesters as their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is about to enter college. It’s the summer before her exit and her folks are trying to maximize their time with her. They’re a bit of the overprotective type who smother their kid and guilt her into Walking Dead nights instead of visiting her friends. Alex’s higher ed plans take a hit when the Johansens learn a long-planned for scholarship is kaput because a corrupt city councilman (Nick Kroll) would rather spend it on a community pool.

With the need to make some fast money, what’s this seemingly normal couple to do? In this high concept exercise, the answer is teaming with down on his luck divorcee neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and opening an illegal casino. The scheme yields dollars but other complications that come with the high roller life. Criminal elements enter the mix and this new job also gives the Johansens a personality transplant into a hard partying couple who start to believe their dangerous notoriety.

Bottom line is that we see Ferrell do his goofy Everyman type turned goofy comedic hard ass. If you find that irresistible, maybe there’s enough to sustain you here. Yet this effort from director Andrew J. Cohen (who co-wrote the much more satisfactory Neighbors) hits its marks with infrequency. Adam McKay is a producer here and he’s done better work with Ferrell. I couldn’t help but wonder if the sometimes sharp political commentary McKay brings to his work would have helped here. I’m pretty sure the script is trying to say something about the plight of the middle class and their earning power, but it’s buried in spurting blood gags and believing Jeremy Renner turning up will work as a gag on its own terms. There’s humorous moments peppered throughout, but nowhere near enough to recommend it.

** (out of four)

The House Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/29): On eve of debut, revising estimate against to $13.8 million

Bloggers’s Note (06/27): Revising estimate to $18.3M from $22.3M

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are a married couple who start up an illegal gambling establishment to pay for their daughter’s college in The House next weekend. It’s the directorial debut of Andrew J. Cohen, writer of the Neighbors pics and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Costars include Ryan Simpkins, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, and Jeremy Renner.

As far as leading roles go, Ferrell has had a good run lately as Get Hard and Daddy’s Home both debuted in the mid to high 30s range. The former had the benefit of costarring Kevin Hart. The latter benefited from a Christmas release. I don’t see The House reaching those numbers and I see it more likely to be in range (perhaps a bit less) with Ferrell’s The Campaign, which opened to $26 million five summers ago.

Considering its relatively low $40 million reported budget and if it receives decent buzz, this should be a nice size hit for Warner Bros.

The House opening weekend prediction: $13.8 million

For my Despicable Me 3 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/06/21/despicable-me-3-box-office-prediction/

For my Baby Driver prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/06/21/baby-driver-box-office-prediction/

For my The Beguiled prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/06/26/the-beguiled-box-office-prediction/

Sisters Movie Review

The effortless chemistry of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler worked like a charm on Weekend Update but generated a disappointment in their first feature, 2008’s Baby Mama. Sisters is a generally more satisfying experience that finds its stars (specifically Fey) playing against type. The pic rarely wants to be anything more than a raunchy party comedy and it works well enough on that level, even while we know these players are capable of much more.

Sisters casts Poehler as Maura, a nurse who’s always trying to help and inspire people, often to a “bit too much” degree. Fey is Kate, an irresponsible stylist whose own teen daughter doesn’t wish to be around her very often. When the siblings parents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) decide to sell the Orlando home where the girls grew up, they don’t take it so well. Their frustration eventually results in one last blowout party like they had in high school. This time though, Maura decides to let her freak flag fly while Kate is dubiously tasked with being the responsible one.

The screenplay by SNL writer Paula Pell occasionally gets emotional with messages about family and Fey and Poehler help greatly in selling it. As mentioned, however, this is content to be a fun R rated laugher complete with some sex, drugs supplied by John Cena, and early 90s hip hop like “Informer” by Canadian rapper Snow. There’s an obligatory romantic subplot for Maura with handyman James (Ike Barinholtz) that feels slightly forced but does produce a memorable moment with a music box. The script also finds some amusing moments for its stellar supporting cast, including Maya Rudolph as Kate’s old high school nemesis, Rachel Dratch as an eccentric old classmate, and Bobby Moynihan as that old friend constantly telling lame jokes. And a shout out to Greta Lee as nail salon worker Hae Won, who shines in her small role and has one of the pic’s funniest scenes with Poehler. On the other hand, John Leguizamo’s loser ex classmate role may have been the victim of the cutting room floor as he has little to do. And while Fey is always stellar, I’ll admit that I never fully bought her in this role.

We have seen both lead actresses do seriously terrific stuff on TV, whether on SNL or their shows “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation”. Sisters doesn’t match those achievements but provides two hours worthy of their talents and provides a party worth checking out.

*** (out of four)

Sisters Box Office Prediction

Nearly eight years after they had a decent size hit with Baby Mama, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler team up again for Sisters, out next Friday. The modestly budgeted $30 million comedy also stars Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, James Brolin, and Dianne Wiest.

Universal Pictures is hoping that Sisters will appeal to a female demographic that may not be chomping at the bit to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which this bravely opens against. The two stars certainly have their fans and the strategy may work. 2008’s Baby Mama earned $17.4 million out of the gate and an eventual gross of a sturdy $64 million.

Based on the competition alone, I feel Sisters will struggle to reach that opening number next weekend yet it could manage close to Mama’s grosses if it performs well over the subsequent holiday weekends.

Sisters opening weekend prediction: $13.9 million

For my Star Wars: The Force Awakens prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/12/08/star-wars-the-force-awakens-box-office-prediction/

For my Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/12/10/alvin-and-the-chipmunks-the-road-chip-box-office-prediction/

Inside Out Movie Review

Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out is a return to form for the studio in the sense that adults will likely appreciate it just as much, if not more, than the children who will see it with them. It comes from Pete Docter, the man responsible for 2009’s Up, which I believe to be Pixar’s finest hour. Inside Out shares many of the same traits in that it focuses on human emotions in a mature manner that you don’t often find in this genre.

And when I say it focuses on emotions, I really mean it. The pic tells the life of Riley, an 11 year old girl who’s about to make a big move with her family from Minnesota (where the hockey loving tyke has settled into a comfortable and happy existence) to San Francisco. We witness the trials and tribulations of this uprooting quite literally from Riley’s head, where characters representing her emotions live. There’s Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), who prides herself on the fact that most of Riley’s memories are positive ones. There’s Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who Joy doesn’t want to have too much of a role in their girl’s day to day happenings. And we have Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black in an expert casting move), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).

The big move to San Fran really upsets the apple cart in Riley’s conscious mind and it forces both Joy and Sadness on a journey to save her soul. If this sounds like heady stuff (forgive the pun), well it kind of is in the same way Up was. That’s a major compliment. While the film is dealing with very real issues, it does so with the character of Joy at the helm and the feeling of joy in its heart.

Along the way, we meet Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s forgotten imaginary friend who is a strange elephant and possibly cat hybrid who cries candy. Bing Bong is a relic of her past and there are also moments set in the Memory Dump, where no longer necessary recollections are discarded.

Inside Out is a triumph of voice over work with Poehler’s always looking on the sunny side and Smith’s polar opposite approach providing many of the highlights. This is a truly innovative concept at work here and we also get occasional glimpses of the emotion characters at work in other people’s heads like Riley’s parents, voiced by Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane. The animation, as we’ve certainly come to expect from this studio, is gloriously impeccable.

This may not quite measure up to the best of Docter’s Up, in which that picture’s segment about its central character’s romance with his wife and her eventual death is possibly the most amazing thing I’ve seen in a Pixar effort. Still, Inside Out proves that Docter may be the studio’s most impressive auteur and he expertly is able to entertain kids while rewarding adults on a different level. You’ll feel a significant amount of joy here and you also may find some candy welling up in your eyes at other times.

***1/2 (out of four)

Inside Out Box Office Prediction

Pixar and Disney are back in the summer mix with Inside Out, opening Friday. The hit studio surprisingly sat the summer of 2o14 out and it was the first time Pixar hadn’t had a summer entry since 2005. Inside Out comes from Pete Docter, who made the acclaimed and Oscar nominated Up in 2009. The pic features the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling and Lewis Black. While critical kudos are widely expected for these animated offerings, Out’s reaction has been remarkable with its 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It could certainly contend for a Best Picture nod come Academy time next year.

The studio has had consistent openings for its features. Eight of the fourteen Pixar movies have debuted with numbers between $60 and $70 million. Only their sequels have earned higher. It’s easy to see Inside Out falling right in line with the expectations. I’ll say it manages to take in just over $70M, which would earn it the distinction of best Pixar non sequel premiere and third best overall.

Inside Out opening weekend prediction: $71.4 million

Oscar Watch: Inside Out

The Cannes Film Festival has given us yet another Oscar contender in its screening process today and it’s a relatively unexpected one: Disney/Pixar’s latest certain summer blockbuster Inside Out. The computer animated feature premieres statewide June 19.

There’s never much doubt that Pixar flicks are going to make a boatload of cash. And it is also a virtual certainty that their products become automatic contenders, if not outright front runners, for the Academy’s Animated Feature race. Based on reviews streaming from the south of France, Inside Out is undoubtedly going to be nominated in that category. Yet a nomination in Best Picture seems much more possible today than it did yesterday.

Inside Out features the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, and Lewis Black, among others. The story is told inside the mind of an 11 year old girl and explores the joys and challenges of her young life. Critics so far have been over the moon with one prominent writer proclaiming it’s the studio’s finest effort since 2009’s Up. Variety went as far to proclaim it as “the greatest idea” that Pixar has ever hatched. Strong words indeed.

The Up comparison is likely no accident as it shares the same director, Pete Docter. Up was the last Pixar product he directed and it is the only one of the bunch that received a Picture nomination. That bodes well for Inside Out if the fawning praise continues, which is probable.

Usually it is dramatic material and independent pictures that gather steam at Cannes. Today it was the studio that Mickey built gaining momentum.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions

We are deep into awards season with Oscar nominations coming Thursday and my final predictions arriving Tuesday. The second most notable awards show arrives tomorrow evening with trusty hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returning to host the Golden Globes. Here are my guesses for what will win at that show in the major categories.

As you may know, unlike the Oscars, the Globes split the Picture and leading performance races between Drama and Musical/Comedy. Here we go!

Best Film (Drama)

Nominees

Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

PREDICTED WINNER: Boyhood

POTENTIAL SPOILER: The Imitation Game

 

Best Film (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees

Birdman

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Into the Woods

Pride

St. Vincent

PREDICTED WINNER: Birdman

POTENTIAL SPOILER: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Best Actor (Drama)

Nominees

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhall, Nightcrawler

David Oyelowo, Selma

Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

PREDICTED WINNER: Redmayne

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Cumberbatch

 

Best Actress (Drama)

Nominees

Jennifer Aniston, Cake

Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon, Wild

PREDICTED WINNER: Moore

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Jones

 

Best Actor (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees

Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Michael Keaton, Birdman

Bill Murray, St. Vincent

Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice

Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

PREDICTED WINNER: Keaton

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Fiennes

 

Best Actress (Musical/Comedy)

Nominees

Amy Adams, Big Eyes

Emily Blunt, Into the Woods

Helen Mirren, The Hundred-Foot Journey

Julianne Moore, Map to the Stars

Quvenzhane Wallis, Annie

PREDICTED WINNER: Blunt

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Adams

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees

Robert Duvall, The Judge

Ethan Hawke, Boyhood

Edward Norton, Birdman

Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

PREDICTED WINNER: Simmons

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Norton

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game

Emma Stone, Birdman

Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

PREDICTED WINNER: Arquette

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Stone

 

Best Director

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ana DuVernay, Selma

David Fincher, Gone Girl

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

PREDICTED WINNER: Inarritu

POTENTIAL SPOILER: Linklater

…. And there you have it friends! Let’s see how the Globes turn tomorrow!