Movie News

Moriarty reviews SUPERSTAR

Published at: June 3, 1999, 1:53 a.m. CST by staff

Somewhere in Moriarty's brain lay every single episodic second of Saturday Night Live. Why do you think he turned to EVIL? He's demented. Obsessed. And ya know... As long as he's happy... we live in a safer world. I just want to say, here's a movie that I have... Officially heard NOTHING about, but now... has to appear on my radar screen... Dang you Moriarty... I feel like a character in PUSHING TIN cateloguing all these damn blips!

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

Maybe it's the rain in Los Angeles tonight... it always makes me happy. Maybe it's just the plethora of good news here at the Moriarty Labs. Maybe it's because movies are actually really good these days. Whatever the cause, the result is the same -- I'm having way too much damn fun at the theater lately.

Earlier this evening, for example, I was flying solo, looking for something to occupy me. All of my henchmen were busy, and I somehow found myself in Old Town Pasadena. I saw that they were assembling what looked like an NRG line, so I decided to hop in. Using my powers of hypnotism, I took a pass from someone, talked a ticket out of one of the NRG drones, and breezed into the theater just before showtime. A little more hypnosis got me my favorite seat, just in time for the movie to begin.

Going in, I had no idea what I was even going to be seeing. As the opening credits played, though, I saw a lot of names go by that made me happy -- Will Ferrell, Mark McKinney, Tom Green, Harland Williams -- but there were two names in particular that jumped out and made me sit up, pay close attention.

The first name was Molly Shannon. Folks, I love Molly Shannon. I think she's a gifted, brave performer who frequently hits some insane highs on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. I don't love her writers on the show always, but she never phones it in. She never just walks through a sketch. She seems to treat every scene, no matter how many or few lines she has, like the most important one of the week. It's performers like her, Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, and Chris Kattan who make the show interesting even in off moments. Making her the center of a film is something that's been a long time coming, and when it hit me that SUPERSTAR is in fact the story of Mary Katherine Gallagher, I got really interested.

The second name that really struck me was Bruce McCulloch, who directed SUPERSTAR. I'm used to seeing Bruce on the other side of the camera. I loved his work on KIDS IN THE HALL, and I noticed back then that he was responsible for many of the short films on the show. He had a confident comic hand as a director then, and I've been dying to see DOGPARK, the independent film he made last year. Like Dave Foley's THE WRONG GUY, McCulloch's film seems to be missing in action. That means I saw this, his second film, first, and now I'm absolutely rabid about getting my hands on that first movie.

In the early days of SNL, Lorne Michaels had one of the most gifted groups of comedy writers in the business. He pulled people from NATIONAL LAMPOON, from Second City in Chicago and Toronto, and from any other source he could. There were different factions of writers inside the show -- Belushi and Aykroyd, Franken and Davis, Michael "God" O'Donoghue all by himself... and then there were Rosie Schuster and Anne Beatts. That rarity in the boy's club Lorne has always run, Beatts and Schuster had strong voices and made a real impact on the show. The material they wrote was more insightful, more introspective than some of the brilliant silliness the guys were turning out. There was an edge to their work that was distinctly female, and it still stands as a high watermark in the show's history. One of the greatest things about the current cast on SNL is how completely Molly, Cheri, and Ana Gasteyer have made their place. They get as much screen time as anyone, and their characters are popular, returning frequently. It's to the credit of SUPERSTAR that it is such an undiluted slice of Molly Shannon's particular comic dementia, and it's one of the things that elevates it well above the level of the average SNL film.

One of these days, we here at the Moriarty Labs are going to get around to publishing our Big Book Of SNL Movies, and when we do, this film will get special mention. It's only recently that Lorne has actually been a producer on these films. In the '70s and '80s, it was everyone else who used Lorne's show as a breeding ground for talent. Now he's making the films himself. So far that's given us the less than satisfying A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY as well as CONEHEADS. This time out, though, Michaels has struck gold. By bringing in some of the talent of the also-produced-by-Lorne KIDS IN THE HALL and allowing one writer (Steven Koren) to work on the film by himself, Michaels has lucked into a focused, mature comedy that depends on character, not charicature, and that has the potential to really reach and affect an audience. It's as much of a miracle as the fact that MTV Films produced the brilliant ELECTION. SNL Studios has also finally pulled it all together. Paramount's got every reason to be thrilled.

The story is simple, direct. Mary Katherine Gallagher is this fearless little girl who wants desperately to satisfy one wish -- she wants to be kissed. She watches movies, sees the way people are kissed, and decides to become like those people. She decides that becoming a superstar will finally get her that kiss. That's really all you need to know about the story of the film. It's never much more complicated than that. Oh, sure, there's the subplot about Slater (Harland Williams), the mysterious rebel who never talks, but who always watches Mary Katherine. Yes, there's a great running story about the super popular Sky Corrigan (Will Ferrell) and his cheerleader girlfriend Evian (Elaine Hendrix). There's a whole group of great characters in Mary's special ed class, especially her best friend Helen, played memorably by Emily Laybourne. There's some great stuff with Mary Katherine's grandmother, played by Glynis Johns. It didn't hit me until after the movie that Glynis Johns is the actress who played the mother in MARY POPPINS. When it did, I was flabbergasted. She's really funny here, with a line that equals Alyson Hannigan's big moment in AMERICAN PIE for hysterical shock effect.

But this movie belongs to Molly. She is front and center from the beginning to the end, and it's a joy. She is a superstar. She's as fabulous as Mary thinks she is. Molly can be wrenchingly funny (her makeout sessions with a tree are painful to behold), and she can be genuinely touching, often within the same scene. I'd go so far as to say that laughs aren't the only thing Molly's after here. This film is almost WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. This is a genuinely sad little character who manages to "find her rainbow" (I love the TV movie quotes that Mary Katherine uses). It would be very easy to make fun of this character, and in the hands of some filmmakers, this would be unbearably mean. Not here, though. Molly finds the dignity in every beat, and Bruce McCulloch lets her.

Please, Paramount... don't sell this as a dumb gagfest. It's not. It's a real movie. Treat it right. Show it to critics early. Support it. You've got a winner here, and audiences will be primed. I think Hollywood's figured out comedy again. Right now, good comic actors are being used right, given smart things to say and do, and directors are making real movies. When you can laugh this hard and leave this happy, everyone's done their job. I hope you readers reward the effort. I'd love to see what else this team can do.

I have to run now, but I've got some other reports en route. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback

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  • June 3, 1999, 5:45 a.m. CST

    Never Underestimate The "Kids"

    by mrbeaks

    It's encouraging to see Lorne hasn't lost track of his other, far superior sketch comedy troupe. If SUPERSTAR is a hit, why not reward the "Kids" with another movie? I know I'm dreaming, but, aside from the UCB, the state of sketch comedy has really been in decline as of late, and would greatly benefit from such expert practitioners of the art getting back together in some capacity. At the very least, I'd like to see Mark McKinney get a role that allows the man to display his considerable comedic talents (sorry, but SPICE WORLD just didn't cut it.) I'm of the opinion that McKinney is one of the most woefully misused actors in the business (watch his work in BRAIN CANDY and tell me I'm wrong.) BTW, I'm glad to see Moriarty acknowledges the genius of Michael O'Donoghue. Any man who can invent a character like Tarzan Of The Cows, or pen a bit like "The Churchill Wit" will forever have my admiration. R.I.P. Mr. Mike.

  • June 3, 1999, 6:15 a.m. CST

    Wrong Guy Screening

    by Gatsby

    For those of you in NYC, Foley's "The Wrong Guy" is going to be showing on Sat. at 12:30pm for FREE at the Screening Room. Haven't seen it, so I can't vouch for the quality, buuuuut...

  • June 3, 1999, 7:14 a.m. CST

    The best seasons of SNL

    by W. Leach

    I know I'm probably alone in this, but since this is techincally a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE talkback, I thought I'd add my dos pesos. For me, the greatest seasons that SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ever had is the 1975 to 1980. I was born two months after SATURDAY NIGHT (or as it was then called NBC'S SATURDAY NIGHT--not to be confused with Howard Cosell's ABC SATURDAY NIGHT show that premiered in September of '75). What makes me such a fan of the first five seasons is simple: great cast, great writing, and great musical guests. The show was fresh. It was unlike anything that had ever been broadcast on TV before. Before SNL'S October 11, 1975 premiere, the 11:30 Saturday time slot was filled with reruns of THE TONIGHT SHOW, and old movies. NBC hired Lorne Michaels in early 1975 to create a hip new comedy-variety show that would be a throwback to the 1950s Saturday night hit YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. Michaels mixed Monty Python and LAUGH-IN to the brew, and auditioned various young comedians from New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles to fit the seven open Not Ready for Prime Time Player roles. The original cast was made up of Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner. Chevy Chase was the first star of the show. When he left in October, 1976, Bill Murray came aboard. In May, 1979, Belushi and Aykroyd left, and were replaced by Harry Shearer the following season. At the end of the 1980 season, the remainder of the cast and Lorne Michaels called it quits. The early SNL shows may seem strange when viewed today, especially compared to the current ones. In the first season, the bulk of the show was devoted to the host (who was really the prime attraction), the musical guest (the second prime attraction), short films by filmmakers like Albert Brooks and Gary Weis, a segment devoted to Jim Henson's Muppets (lizardlike creatures who looked more like the creatures in THE DARK CRYSTAL than Kermit the Frog), and maybe a stand-up act or two (Andy Kaufman did many of his famous bits here--Mighty Mouse, The Great Gatsby, Elvis, wrestling, etc.) The cast members had little to do in many of these early shows (their faces weren't even shown in the opening credits). It really wasn't until the second season that the cast became the focus of the shows, and by 1978, were the most famous entertainers in the country. They were referred to as "The Beatles of Comedy," recognized wherever they went. True, most people prefer the newer casts (the Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Dennis Miller, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley years) or the current group (I can't believe Tim Meadows is STILL on. He has to be the cast member who stayed the longest. I remember when he first came on around 1991, with Farley, Sandler, Spade, and Rock), but for me, SNL will always be Chevy Chase stumbling around, Bill Murray as the sleazy Nick the Lounge Singer, Dan Aykroyd as Beldar Conehead, Gilda Radner as Baba Wawa, and John Belushi as the mute, grunting Samurai. As Colin Quinn says: "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."

  • June 3, 1999, 7:38 a.m. CST

    when did eddie murphy join the cast?

    by Mean Ween

    just curious.

  • June 3, 1999, 8:20 a.m. CST

    THIS REVIEW IS WAY TOO LONG. ENOUGH WITH THE LONG-WINDED EXPOSIT

    by JaneDoe33

    Does anyone know when the Odenkirk and Cross movie "Hooray For America" is coming out? Anyone?

  • June 3, 1999, 8:56 a.m. CST

    I would of thought the Cheerleader movie would of came out first

    by spike lee

    I guess SNL is back at the movies, with Superstar and last years Night at the Roxbury. I was suprised to see the name Tom Green. Everyone please check out the Tom Green Show on MTV, it has to be one of the funniest shows on television ever.

  • June 3, 1999, 9:27 a.m. CST

    deWitt

    by quiscustodiet

    Gotta agree with you, Moriarty is usually dead on with reviews but between this and his review of Sandler's new one, I'm wondering what happened to the great doctor. On the other hand, his praise of the Kids has to be commended, they were brilliant and seriously missed! (Maybe Moriarty is Lorne Michaels!)

  • June 3, 1999, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Best SNL Cast

    by Anton_Sirius

    In terms of TALENT, it is almost impossible to argue with the original cast. Just look at what most of them went on to do post-SNL. Hell, the Bill Murray hosted recent episode was the best one of the last couple of years- he performed rings around most of the regulars, and that Caddyshack sketch... But I still say the Hartman/Carvey/Lovitz/Hooks/Dunn etc. etc. is the greatest SNL era ever. A lot of the pieces from the original run have not aged very well- I mean, Gerald Ford jokes? And the shows could be very uneven. But the Hartman/Carvey etc. cast were so unbelievably PROFESSIONAL. Everything Moriarty said about Molly Shannon selling every moment like it was her only one of the week could be said of every cast member from that group. They could do anything- impressions, spoofs, songs about broccoli... anything. THAT was the show's heyday.

  • June 3, 1999, 12:16 p.m. CST

    RE: When did Eddie Murphy join SNL?

    by W. Leach

    Eddie Murphy joined SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in September, 1980, after the original cast and staff was gone (Jean Doumanian was producer). However, Murphy was mostly a background character, with little or no screen time in his first few shows. It wasn't until he talked Doumanian into appearing on Weekend Update that he really came into his own. Shortly after that, he became the show's new breakout star, and remained with SNL until 1984.

  • June 3, 1999, 12:48 p.m. CST

    DOG PARK & THE WRONG GUY

    by Shemp

    THE WRONG GUY was released in Canada in select markets last year and disappeared quickly. It belongs squarely in the "nice try" category. DOG PARK played the Toronto Film Festival last September and is being fiddled with by New Line in preparation for an anticipated fall release. Don't expect much - the film doesn't offer enough freshness on the singles dating scene to make any kind of an impact.

  • June 3, 1999, 12:57 p.m. CST

    James Brown Celebrity hot tub!

    by Profez

    I'ts hot in the hot tub! OWWWWW!

  • June 3, 1999, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Not Ready for Talk Back Player

    by Angus

    I heard the Cross and Odenkirk flick, HOORAY FOR AMERICA (something about a guy who accidentally becomes President?) has been completely tossed out for a new project. And for the record, I don't think the much-praised "original cast" SNLs hold up particularly well. Especially not when compared to Python or SCTV. Am I the only one who thought the ROXBURY movie was at least "not unwatchable?" I hope SUPERSTAR is as good as Moriarity says; the only SNL flick that I think really comes close to being decent is STUART SAVES HIS FAMILY. (BLUES BROTHERS too, of course, but that doesn't seem to count.) I actually saw IT'S PAT in a theater, with Julia Sweeney introducing: "Well, I know this movie's had some pretty bad reviews, but my friends told me they liked it." Sad!

  • June 3, 1999, 1:09 p.m. CST

    More on Cross/Odenkirk

    by Angus

    Now I remember what the new MR. SHOW-related movie is supposed to be: A feature centered around Cross's white trash character in the sketch that was a musical version of COPS.

  • June 3, 1999, 2:36 p.m. CST

    UCB kicks ass!!!!

    by Collin_Bullock

    They need to make a movie off the Upright Citizens Birgade. That is the funniest sketch comedy show of all time (ok...Mr. Show is good too). As for this movie Superstar...if those fucking Spartan Cheerleaders are in this movie I'm gonna go to the theater and fire bomb the fucking screen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, sorry. I take solace in the fact they never made a goat boy movie.

  • June 3, 1999, 2:54 p.m. CST

    Mr. Show Movie -- Ronnie Dobbs

    by Ipecac

    Just to let everybody know, the Mr. Show movie is centered around the David Cross character of Ronnie Dobbs, a man who gets famous for being arrested on COPS. I hear that it will actually be titled "Ronnie Dobbs." As for when it will be released, I have no idea. They are, though, working on a Mr. Show book, also, as well as more episodes of the series they produce on HBO, Tenacious D. As far as sketch comedy goes, I'd just like to say that I'm going to have a joygasm with all of the Mr. Show and Kids in the Hall projects coming our way. Still, I'm depressed about NBC's dismissal of Dave Foley's brilliant sitcom, NewsRadio. I, too, would like to see a new Kids movie, but Dave Foley once said when asked if the Kids were considering making another one, "We are. Unfortunately, no one that we know of is considering letting us. But I do hope there will be some sort of KITH project--perhaps a tour--in the near future. " And on that note, I've heard rumblings of a KITH reunion this summer, perhaps at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival. I will be hoping for that one. That is all.

  • I agree Molly Shannon is very funny on SNL and so are fellow cast members like Ferrel, Kattan, and Oteri. Still, the Mary Katherine Gallgher sketches just aren't funny. Not for 5 seconds, never mind 90 minutes. At least the Night At The Roxbury sketch made me laugh a few times on TV even though the movie didn't. Shannon should be in a movie that displays her comic talent more than smelling her armpits and falling into things. Superstar may be the worst sketch turned into a movie. I'm looking forward to the Ladies Man movie with Tim Meadows. It's about time he got a movie deal, he's been on the show so long and been underrated.

  • June 3, 1999, 4:36 p.m. CST

    The Ladies Man

    by Simon Templar

    I heard a few weeks back they were going to move forward on a big screen, version of the funnyest charachter, in the show. Leon Phelps the ladies man. I think this guy if FAR FAR funnier that Mary Katherine, i thikn she is stupid. And I was very pleased to hear they were gonna make this into a film. If anybody Knows anymore about this project HOOK ME UP I wanna know more. Thanks.

  • June 3, 1999, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Sketch Comedy

    by Simon Templar

    Personaly i think MAD TV is downright smut, and unwatchable. I think the new season of SNL hasnt been bad, Chriss Kattan, and Jimmy Falon are gonna be big. BUt some of the best sketch comedy came from. MTV's THE STATE. that was the funniest show Oh my god. I dont know what the did to get rid of that show but man that was a fuckup.i also Like kids in the hall.

  • June 3, 1999, 7:12 p.m. CST

    DeWitt & Comedians

    by Dathcha

    Firstly, "Mr. Show" is horrible unfunny drivel. Secondly, Harland Williams and Tom Green are both BRILLIANT. Future is bright for both of them - BIGTIME.

  • June 3, 1999, 10:26 p.m. CST

    DeVore's a tad bitter!

    by Actorboy

    Jeez! What crawled up DeVore's ass and died. Lighten up... Just don't see the movies. It is pretty simple. No reason to burst a blood vessel over...

  • July 28, 2006, 11:14 p.m. CST

    Meh.

    by Wolfpack