Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Film Yap: Saturday Night Live From TV to Film

One of the most anticipated comedies of the summer is…MacGruber. The Film Yap podcast has already observed the odd origin path of this movie. It’s a movie based off a one minute long Saturday Night Live sketch that is a spoof of the 80s TV show MacGyver. The movie has been getting surprisingly favorable buzz, which is rare for SNL movies.

Several movies have stemmed from the sketch show and quickly bomb with audiences. Films like Coneheads, It’s Pat, The Ladies Man, A Night at the Roxbury, Stuart Saves His Family, and Superstar are not often seen except for when Comedy Central is desperate for programming. The reason so many of those films didn’t work lies with the sketches themselves. There isn’t a sketch on SNL that could ever be called complex. Once the show finds a character that works, they typically milk it dry. The problem is that they only work on a few minute timeslot. Pat, of It’s Pat fame, only exists as a gender-boggling gimmick. That really can’t be stretched for 77 minutes. (One can easily argue it can’t be stretched for 3.)

A lot of the films have trouble finding a proper plot to put these characters in, but with a comedy the plot isn’t the most important. If the comedy is working then the movie is working. There are two films that are almost universally seen as SNL successes on the silver screen: The Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World.

The Blues Brothers doesn’t come from a sketch, exactly, but from a musical segment on the show. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd dress up in black suits and black sunglasses and act like the coolest guys in the room. They don’t move or talk much except for when they break into song. In the film they go back to their childhood church and they need money. So they believe they are on a “mission from God” and need to bring the band back together to get the money. The film is a series of vignettes with musical numbers and outrageous chase scenes. The guest stars are all funny and the soundtrack ended up being a bestseller as well. The film is not exactly adapting a sketch, but making a really solid movie out of two characters who were barely on a sketch show.

Wayne’s World, on the other hand, was definitely a series of sketches. They were sketches that almost didn’t make it to air. The first one aired at the last timeslot, which is usually where they dump their oddest ones. It found a following and ultimately led it to two movies. The sketches are the aired public access shows of Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). They are two boys who talk about what is going on in the world or their own lives with their unique joyous attitude. The film expands their world by having them interact with people outside of their basement. Rob Lowe is a sleezy businessman (It’s either that or an idealistic man working in politics) who wants to buy their show. The movie works because so much of the comedy is very creative. It constantly breaks the fourth wall and commenting on its circumstances and single-handedly brought “Bohemian Rhapsody” back onto the record charts. This film and its sequel aired almost twenty years ago but the phrases “Party on Wayne/Garth” and “Schwing!” are still familiar in the pop culture lexicon.

So where will MacGruber fit into this spectrum. As a fan of comedy, I would hope towards the end with Blues Brothers but time will tell. The previews show it appears to be more of a send-off of action movies instead of the character constantly trying to dismantle a bomb. I mean that concept could never work for a movie…okay aside from that recent brilliant Best Picture winner. Check on the website to see what Joe Shearer thought of the film.


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