March 28, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Dwayne Johnson


Dwayne Johnson is an ideal kind of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE host:  a big-time movie star with enthusiasm, panache, a sense of humor about himself, and a willingness to be utterly silly.  It’s no surprise that tonight was his 4th time as host, and while his presence wasn’t enough to rescue a typically uneven SNL, he definitely raised the evening’s energy level.

Tonight started out strong, with a first half-hour that hit more than it missed.  The cold open brought back one of the favorites from a previous Johnson hosting gig:  “The-Rock Obama,” that being the mild-mannered President’s more violent alter ego who appeared when recalcitrant Republicans like Ted Cruz and John Boehner got him angry.  The sketch had an inspired capper when Sasheer Zamata’s Michelle Obama transformed into–but of course–Leslie Jones as her own unbridled id.  Johnson also used his screen persona to good effect, first in a monologue that turned him into a song and dance man to praise his own status as “franchise Viagra” (no, it’s not a coincidence that Furious 7 is opening on Thursday night, and yes, in the end it was just another singing monologue, but a little more charming than usual).  Even better was a pre-taped trailer for a Disney live-action remake of Bambi that modernized the gentle tale into a Fast & Furious-ized revenge thriller, with Taran Killam particularly swell as Vin Diesel as Thumper, and Jay Pharoah as both Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris.  Johnson and Cecily Strong, in another sketch, were so funny together as a douchebag and his Brit-trash girlfriend ruining the dinner of Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer because the two men had once been in jury duty together–the two of them turned ordering onion rings into weirdly wonderful lunacy–that I’m ready to sign on now for a Johnson/Strong rom-com.

Even the less spot-on bits in that opening stretch were at least clever:  a fake commercial hitting on Starbucks’ abortive “#RaceTogether” conversation-starter idea by purporting to praise Pep Boys incorporating “Genderflect” discussion of gender identity with every car repair, and a (unfortunately prolonged) promo for a wresting match where Johnson’s fighter jeered at Bobby Moynihan’s with very personal insults aimed at his sexual history, as unearthed by a private detective, including the revelation that Johnson had been catfishing Moynihan with a photo of the latter’s previously unknown teen daughter.

Things started to go downhill after midnight, with a brainless, repetitive piece of slapstick set up as a parody 1980s Indiana Jones rip-off in which Kate McKinnon pined for the chance to suck poison dart venom from any part of Johnson’s body, but Pete Davidson’s native guide kept beating her to it.  After Weekend Update, the sketches became particularly pointless, including an unfunny mess with Moynihan as a TV chef and child molester who kept trying to go online to check out forbidden websites while his food was cooking, despite parole officer Johnson watching over him.  An attempt to make something funny out of the idea of The Jinx protagonist Robert Durst (played by McKinnon) as the subject of a comedy improv team’s routine went absolutely nowhere, and the same was true of a sketch where Johnson was a cop trying to break down suspect Killam with non sequiturs, including a recitation of the lyrics from the Friends theme song.  A parody ad for frat-boy baldness medication “Brogaine” was one-note, and Kyle Mooney’s latest look-how-low-tech-I-am Man on the Street interview segment (here set at a circus) was You Tube-grade filler.

Weekend Update has recently suggested the possibility that Colin Jost may be more than a speaking piece of wood, and again tonight, he had his moments, especially when he went after the opening credits of The Jinx as glorifying Durst’s murders.  He also had fine chemistry with McKinnon’s returning Old Russian Woman character.  Michael Che had his usual cue card problems, and on an Update that was already running long, we didn’t need a visit from Kenan Thompson as Che’s hopelessly cheerful “neighbor Willie”.  The attempt at some Jost/Che byplay on the #RaceTogether campaign would have had to go much farther than it did in order to work.

Next week, the host is recent Oscar nominee Michael Keaton, with musical guest Carly Rae Jepsen.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."