Josh Brolin Is Like The Son Of John Malkovich In A Weird, Silly & Musical Saturday Night Live


If there was one other sketch that came close to being the best of the night, it’s Shrimp Tower. Set in a “Downton Abbey” kind of high society in Vienna, 1893, this pre-taped sketch follows Brolin as a classy man who aims to impress the Archduchess with a massive display of shrimp. In fact, it’s a shrimp tower. But Brolin may be much more preoccupied with the presentation of the shrimp than he is with actually impressing the Archduchess, which is why when she gets too close to touching the seafood structure, he pushes her directly out the window. The absurdity in the first half of the sketch was already a hit, but the escalation takes it to another level, especially as Brolin continually tries to keep the Archduchess from climbing back into the ballroom and potentially disrupting the shrimp tower. Good stuff!

As for the rest of the episode, it was packed with sketches. Weekend Update didn’t feature any guests at the desk, and since it all clocked in under seven minutes, it made room for 10 total sketches, and only two of them were pre-recorded. That’s partially why there were more live flubs than usual, with Brolin consistently stumbling here and there. But as I indicated before, because of Brolin’s unique delivery, it didn’t always derail the sketch. Instead, it mostly added a touch of peculiarity to the proceedings, sometimes enhancing the comedy. For example…

Feeling like a 10-to-1 sketch that arrived earlier in the night, this Wine and Cheese sketch almost feels like it comes from an alternate reality that is only just slightly askew from our own. That’s largely thanks to the totally unrealistic cat that’s at the center of this sketch. I have to believe that the props department knew this cat wasn’t going to look realistic, and that has to be part of the gag. They could have easily used a much more realistic animatronic, even if the movements weren’t going to look natural. But beyond that, this was the sketch where Brolin’s Malkovich energy clicked for me, as he accused Tina of “blowing cheese smoke” into the chair cushion. It’s just a shame the ending of this sketch is so awful, because it otherwise might have been truly great. 

When it comes to sketches that end up being elevated by flubs, look no further than this Moulin Rouge inspired sketch. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that they didn’t try to introduce this with Kenan Thompson’s Reese DeWhat character, but maybe the innovative musical approach of “Moulin Rouge” is too contemporary to put under the fictional character’s “Cinema Classics” purview. Anyway, what we get here is a rendition of the movie’s famous “Elephant Love Medley,” which features a mix of pop songs strung together in a romantic musical sequence. What the sketch imagines is an alternate version with a bunch of other songs clumsily added into the scene as well. Ariana Grande (the episode’s musical guest) steps in to take a lead role alongside Bowen Yang, and the two break several times while trying to keep up with the songs. It’s not a runaway success, but it’s bolstered by these missteps. And I gotta say, I love that “One Week” psych-out towards the end. It’s just a shame Josh Brolin didn’t even try to impersonate Jim Broadbent’s boisterous Harold Zidler.

Quickly running through the rest of the sketches, the People Pleaser Support Group was the kind of sketch that I would call “nice” or “amusing,” but the premise was too thin to warrant a sketch that went on this long. Similarly, Airplane Song felt like the kind of sketch that didn’t really need to be a musical sketch, and even though the 1980s-esque visuals that bring Michael Bolton to mind were a nice touch, the core of the sketch didn’t feel strong enough to justify this kind of production value. Then we have Sandwich King, which made funny use of Billie Eilish’s Oscar-nominated “Barbie” soundtrack song “What Was I Made For,” but the stilted delivery and poor timing of the audio cue resulted in too many flubs to get any momentum going. That quick flashback montage somewhat helped redeem its shortcomings, but a poor ending took it right back down. 

But easily the worst sketch of the night was the Shonda Talk Show, where an accused cheating husband turns out to be an old guy in a motorized wheelchair, which takes the wind out of the audience’s initially vindictive sails. It’s one of those sketches where there’s a long lead into the surprising reveal, but what follows doesn’t exactly make the wait worth it, and the sketch eventually overstays its welcome. It’s not a bad idea, but this particular execution just didn’t work very well. 

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