From Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy to more recent alumni like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live serves as the launching pad for an endless conveyor belt of comedy superstars. Regardless of the long-running sketch comedy show’s variable quality, its ability to provide a platform for up-and-coming talent is largely unparalleled in the world of entertainment.
Ironically, the show’s numerous attempts to transition fan-favorite characters from the space of a five-minute sketch into a 90-minute feature involve much more inconsistent results. Thus far, almost a dozen films based on SNL characters have been produced (including sequels). Here, we take a look at the best and worst films that Saturday Night Live has to offer.
Best: The Blues Brothers (1980)
The very first film ever based on Saturday Night Live, this musical comedy adventure follows the titular Jake and Elwood (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) on a “mission from God” to save the orphanage where they grew up.
Renowned for its epic car chase sequence and memorable musical numbers, the film stands as one of the only SNL films to receive critical acclaim and became a monster hit at the box office, bringing in $115 million worldwide against a reported production budget of just $27 million. Nearly two decades later, it spawned a sequel (more on that later).
Worst: Coneheads (1993)
Originally debuting on Saturday Night Live in 1977, the family of aliens known as the Coneheads involved a fish-out-of-water premise wherein Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) and Jane Curtin (Prymaat) poorly attempted to blend in with their earthling neighbors.
For some reason, that thin setup was stretched into a feature-length comedy nearly 15 years after the sketch was retired. Predictably, Coneheads — which also starred Michelle Burke, replacing Laraine Newman as daughter Connie — earned dismal reviews and even worse box office numbers, becoming the first Saturday Night Live spinoff to misfire.
Best: Wayne’s World (1992)
Long before he became known for the Austin Powers and Shrek franchises, Mike Myers’ signature character was the Aurora, Ill. slacker who lends this film (and the public access show it centers on) its title. Myers and co-star Dana Carvey seamlessly expand their Saturday Night Live shtick into a feature-length story, and the film’s self-referential humor perfectly fits within the devil-may-care tone of the story at hand.
Everything from blatant product placement to multiple endings comes into play here, and audiences loved every second, helping Wayne’s World become the highest-grossing SNL film to date and revitalizing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” 17 years after its initial release.
Worst: It’s Pat (1994)
The most notorious film to come out of Saturday Night Live, this mess is routinely considered one of the most unfunny “comedies” ever made. Julia Sweeney reprises her role as the sexually ambiguous, gender-mysterious title character, and the film is perhaps the greatest proof yet that some ideas are best in small doses.
Though the film only opened in a few cities during its limited theatrical release, it still performed so poorly that it was pulled after a single weekend. Fans of Sweeney’s work on Saturday Night Live are better off checking out God Said Ha!, the film version of her one-woman stage show.
Best: MacGruber (2010)
Following a string of Saturday Night Live films released throughout the ’90s, this movie was the first release in a decade. Although the sketch it’s based on was intended to be a simple MacGyver parody, Will Forte’s committed performance as the titular strategist became so popular that a spinoff film seemed to be the next logical step.
Luckily, the film avoided becoming simply a one-joke pony and embraced the absurdity of its own release. Though the film has developed a cult following, MacGruber was a financial disappointment during its initial theatrical run.
Worst: Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
Despite the return of co-writer/director John Landis and star/co-writer Dan Aykroyd, this sequel to the 1980 original film failed on nearly every level. Perhaps the critical absence of John Belushi or simply the 18-year span between films is to blame for the poor reception of Blues Brothers 2000.
In any case, the film feels like little more than a blatant cash-grab rather than a legitimate addition to the fan-favorite characters. At the very least, the musical performances — from artists like Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin, and Blues Traveler — are fun to watch.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
Additional reporting by Michelle Regalado
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