The upcoming MEN IN BLACK 3 centers around a time-travel theme, and with co-star Josh Brolin as host, much of this week’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE seemed to be saluting the movie with sketches that could have been written anywhere between a year and a decade ago.
Thus, after an MIB3 gag monologue that made up for not being funny with its extreme brevity, we got a Game of Thrones sketch that seemed to have discovered, a year into the show’s run, that the HBO series features plenty of nudity. This was followed by “The Californians,” which with its relentless reliance on 2 jokes (Valley accents and Los Angelenos who talk obsessively about the best way to drive wherever they’re going) felt not just ancient, but in the classic mold of sketches Lorne Michaels will force on us over and over in seasons to come (it also set a theme for the night of cast members breaking in sketches, with Bill Hader the worst offender and Kristen Wiig and Jay Pharoah barely holding on later in the show). Another less-than-timely target was the spate of “Empire State of Mind” parodies on YouTube, which seemed like a revamp of the sketch earlier this season about people who make fools of themselves online. One of the 2 Digital Shorts of the evening, yet another chapter in the “Laser Cats” saga, didn’t do anything to make the night feel up-to-date, since it was the world’s trillionth Steven Spielberg parody (featuring a cameo from the great man himself). Meanwhile, Weekend Update’s featured desk bit was a return by Wiig and Fred Armisen’s unprepared musical duo Garth & Kat.
Brolin seemed to be having a lot of fun, but the show didn’t make much use of him. He wasn’t given the lead in any sketch, with small parts in The Californians and Empire State of Mind, as well as in a “slow motion hallway” piece (which felt odd enough to be the 12:55PM sketch, although it aired a little earlier), and a Piers Morgan parody that played off the George Zimmerman arrest. (That one, at least, allowed Nasim Pedrad to reprise her hilarious Kim Kardashian.) Brolin wasn’t to be seen at all in the pretaped pieces, which apart from Game of Thrones and “Laser Cats,” included a riff on musical guest Gotye’s music videos. The closest he came to carrying a sketch was the actual 12:55 bit, a prom piece where he shared the spotlight with Pharoah and was funny enough as a teacher drunkenly proud of his affair with a student.
Oddly, in an election season with notably disappointing topical sketches, the strongest bits this week were the political ones: a Green Day-themed cold open that bid farewell to the Republican primary season, and Seth Meyers’ “What Are You Doing?” rant about North Korea’s missile program.
SNL won’t return with new episodes until May 5, when the show returns for its last few outings of the season with hosting wild card Eli Manning and musical guest Rihanna (whose own movie Battleship will, not coincidentally, be about to open).