Entertainment

'Saturday Night Live': The best movies based on sketches

By Bruce Kirkland, Special to Postmedia Network

A scene from Wayne's World (Handout photo)

A scene from Wayne's World (Handout photo)

Careening madly towards its 40th anniversary, Saturday Night Live remains as controversial as it is famous for its comedy sketches.

But, for all its survival instincts to stay on the air, SNL and its star performers have struggled when trying to turn some of the sketches and characters into big-screen movies. Only a few were ever worth seeing. Here they are, ranked in order from number one.

• The Blues Brothers (1980):

John Landis directed John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to greatness as Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, brothers on a mission from God. Set and filmed in Chicago, the rollicking musical movie dramatically opens up the performance skits from TV. It features Belushi and Ackroyd rocking the house along with music legends such as James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Despite production chaos, including delays due to Belushi’s drug use and Animal House partying, Landis held the thing together and generated a cult classic as well as a $115 million worldwide box office champ.

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• Wayne’s World (1992):

It may seem quaint now, and a little sad because Mike Myers’ comedy career has tanked, but this was a big deal in the 1990s. And it is still beloved by its cult fans. Myers plays Wayne Campbell. Dana Carvey is Garth Alger. Together, with bad hair but good intentions on their local cable network TV show, they satirize the world they know while acting out their juvenile fantasies about rock music and beautiful babes. Penelope Spheeris’ movie made an impressive $183 million worldwide.

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• Bob Roberts (1992):

While it is much less obvious and known, Tim Robbins’ clever creation started life as a SNL sketch. He performed as Bob Roberts, a right-wing musician and politician, on Dec. 13, 1986. Six years later, it became a full-blown mockumentary about Roberts’ run for the U.S. Senate. Robbins wrote and directed the picture, which features him in the title role. Robbins, who has left-wing sensibilities, did the movie as a socio-political satire on American politics. That pretty much doomed it at the box office with just $4.5 million in tickets sold. But the film is solid and remains relevant.

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• A Mighty Wind (2003):

Characters from Christopher Guest’s parody first appeared on SNL in 1984, with Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean performing as The Folksmen, a 1960s folk revival group. Co-written by Guest and Eugene Levy, and directed by Guest, the mockumentary focuses on a revival concert. The astonishing thing is that, while Guest & friends are sending up mainstream folk music, they are really good at it. At the box office, the musical earned only $18.8 million, 95% of that in the U.S. and Canada. It deserved more attention.

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• Coneheads (1993):

Good-natured but kind of stupid, Steve Barron’s movie expands the SNL sketches and the TV animation into a full-length movie. Ackroyd is the head of a family of aliens from Planet Remulak. When they find themselves stranded on Earth, they try to fit in. Notable members of the ensemble include Jane Curtin, Tom Arnold, Parker Posey, Dave Thomas, Phil Hartman and Adam Sandler prior to his own bust-out movie comedies Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore. Coneheads generated a modest $21 million at the box office in 1993 and failed to register long-term.

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Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

 

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