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…

It Chapter Two Movie Review

It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.

In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.

On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.

Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.

Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.

The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: It Chapter Two

Two years ago, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel It broke box office records in the horror genre and became an instant audience favorite. Yet it didn’t end up registering with awards voters in any fashion… not even for Pennywise’s creepy makeup job.

This weekend, the eagerly awaited sequel arrives and the review embargo has floated away. Chapter Two holds a decent 79% Rotten Tomatoes score, but that’s beneath the 86% achieved by its predecessor. A consistent theme in much of the critical reaction is that many parts work, but that it’s also overlong and doesn’t quite measure up to chapter one.

If It couldn’t garner Oscar attention, don’t expect this to. I will make make one further prediction. Another common factor in the reviews is praise for Bill Hader’s performance and he’s said to be a scene stealer. Don’t be surprised to see some chatter and wishful thinking for a Supporting Actor nod that will never come to pass. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

It Chapter Two Box Office Prediction

It Chapter Two will no doubt float to the top of the charts next weekend when it’s unleashed in cinemas. The Stephen King adapted horror epic continues the story of the Losers Club battling demonic clown Pennywise and hopes to rake in similar earnings to its 2017 predecessor. Andy Muschietti returns in the director’s seat with Bill Skarsgard back as Pennywise. Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the youthful Losers Club. Part 2 also flashes forward in time and finds James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader (said to be a scene stealer), Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean portraying their adult versions. This is the only wide release of the weekend as other studios steered clear.

It was a genuine box office phenomenon when it came out during the same post Labor Day frame two years ago. Bursting out of the gate with $123.4 million, it ended its domestic gross at just over $327 million. That made It the largest September opening of all time and highest debuting and overall earning horror feature ever.

Chapter Two stands a real chance at breaking those records. Unlike some sequels in 2019 that followed long after previous entries, chapter one is still fresh in the minds of audiences. There’s a desire to see how it wraps up. That said, I’ll say this falls under what that creepy clown and company accomplished in 2017.

It Chapter Two opening weekend prediction: $109.7 million

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Box Office Prediction

Those animated and ill tempered fowls based on the video game you were obsessed with on your smart phone are back next week with The Angry Birds Movie 2. Our first Birds flew into theaters in the summer of 2016 and the sequel returns the vocal stylings of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Peter Dinklage. Newcomers include Leslie Jones, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, and Eugenio Derbez. Thurop Van Orman makes his directorial debut.

Three years ago, Birds kicked off to a solid $38 million. Unlike many other animated offerings, it didn’t leg out particularly well with a final gross of $107 million. Surprisingly, critical reaction to this follow-up is stronger than what transpired before. This stands at 81% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 44% for its predecessor.

That said, I don’t see the sequel outdoing part 1. It opens on a Tuesday – perhaps in an effort to nab more kid business before schools start. A premiere of mid to high teens to over the traditional Friday to Sunday frame and low to possibly mid 20s for the six day is where I’m at.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 opening weekend prediction: $17.2 million (Friday to Sunday); $25.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Good Boys prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/07/good-boys-box-office-prediction/

For my 47 Meters Down: Uncaged prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/08/47-meters-down-uncaged-box-office-prediction/

For my Blinded by the Light prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/blinded-by-the-light-box-office-prediction/

For my Where’d You Go, Bernadette prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/11/whered-you-go-bernadette-box-office-prediction/

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…

Power Rangers Box Office Prediction

Lionsgate is hoping that a wave of 90s nostalgia will propel Power Rangers to powerful grosses when it debuts next weekend. The reported $105 million product is a reboot of the popular kids cartoon that spawned two (not very well-regarded) pics in the mid 1990s.

Franchise creator Haim Saban produces this venture with Dean Israelite directing. A cast of relative unknowns (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin) play our young title characters. More familiar faces including Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, and the voice of Bill Hader are among the supporting cast.

Rangers is banking on capturing the same audience that responded well to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles refresh recently. Its 2014 return spawned a much more than expected $65 million opening. Last year’s sequel, Out of the Shadows, didn’t measure up with a $35 million premiere.

My instinct is that Power Rangers could certainly over perform, but it will likely reach the mid 30s that Shadows accomplished. I believe those initial Turtles numbers could be unreachable. The earlier Rangers flicks weren’t huge successes. In 1995, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers made $13 million out of the gate with an eventual $38M overall tally. Its spin-off two years later, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, was an outright flop with only $8 million total domestically.

Bottom line: I believe the nostalgia factor will come into play and should be enough to make this is a solid second behind the sophomore weekend of Beauty and the Beast.

Power Rangers opening weekend prediction: $33.8 million

For my Life prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/15/life-box-office-prediction/

For my CHiPs prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/03/16/chips-box-office-prediction/

Sausage Party Movie Review

The comedic team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (they were childhood friends) was first witnessed by mass audiences in 2007’s inspired Superbad. That pic was conceived by the duo when they were young and that teen spirit infused it with a refreshing authenticity. Their cinematic marriage has since shown their fondness for raunchiness and weed. Nothing has quite hit the effectiveness of their first collaboration. Some have come pretty darn close (Pineapple Express, This is the End) while others have come up a bit shorter (The Watch, The Interview, The Night Before). Most of their works have performed well or at least decently at the box office (The Watch is a notable exception) and Sausage Party is the kind of movie you get to make when studios let you do whatever you want. It ends up on the higher scale of their work.

Party gives us the rare instance of a truly R rated animated flick. Rogen and Goldberg’s affection for vulgarity is on full display and one suspects it was green stuff other than money that may have assisted in coming up with the concept. Here it is: the food and products in your local grocery store are alive and blissfully unaware of what happens to them after they walk out of the sliding doors. Rogen’s Frank is a sausage and Kristin Wiig’s Brenda is a bun and they’ve been waiting to connect once they break out of their respective packages. In their understanding, this will occur once they’re purchased by the Gods (who are actually just your everyday consumers) and enter the Great Beyond outside of Shopwell’s.

A returned jar of honey mustard (voiced by Danny McBride) tries to warn his market friends of what lies ahead when their dream of freedom is met. Many are skeptical and what’s often most surprising about Sausage Party is its allegorical themes pertaining to religion and sex with some expected drug humor thrown in. It’s also chock full of bad puns (some quite hilarious) and plenty of the living products representing their stereotypes. The most obvious and amusing example? The villain of the establishment (voiced by Nick Kroll) is literally a Douche. We also have Sammy the Bagel, giving Edward Norton a chance to be funny and essentially do a Woody Allen impersonation and his ex-girlfriend Salma Hayek coming out of her shell as Theresa del Taco.

As mentioned, Goldberg and Rogen are free to do what they want here and Sausage Party does have plenty of uproariously inappropriate moments. There are also times when their out there idea is funnier in concept than actual execution. Additionally, the final gag practically begs for a post-credits sequence that never materializes. Still, at a brisk 88 minutes, this Party is fresh enough for consumption of its creators fans.

*** (out of four)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

Sausage Party Box Office Prediction

It’s a banner year for animated movies at the box office (excluding the freezing out of Ice Age: Collision Course), yet a very different one opens next weekend with Sausage Party. The 3D animated flick comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and it is definitely not meant for the little ones.

Supermarket produce comes to life in the very hard R comedy that features a whole lotta familiar voices other than Mr. Rogen’s. They include Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Paul Rudd, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton, and Salma Hayek. Made for a quite reasonable $30 million, this has been a passion project for Rogen and company and took years to get produced. Early reviews have been strong – it holds a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes (no word yet on whether actual rotten tomatoes are featured in this).

If there’s one genre where not a whole lot of data exists – adult animated pics would be one of them. 1996’s Beavis and Butthead Do America opened to $20.1 million and 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut earned $11.3 million. Word of mouth could certainly help here but in the end, I envision this performing similarly to some other Rogen features. This is The End earned $20.7 million in its initial weekend and this summer’s Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising disappointed with $21.7 million. That seems like a reasonable range for this Party and I’ll put it at just below $20M.

Sausage Party opening weekend prediction: $19.4 million

For my Pete’s Dragon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/petes-dragon-box-office-prediction/

For my Florence Foster Jenkins prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/08/03/florence-foster-jenkins-box-office-prediction/