In honor of the queasy feeling in my guts resulting from the trailers for the upcoming releases “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and “The Love Guru,” starring SNL alums Adam Sandler and Mike Myers respectively, I thought it might be a good time to point out the positive work done by some of the talented exports of “Saturday Night Live.” This list includes films that star SNL cast members and may have taken place before or after they were on the show. A list of the worst films made by SNL alums would have to include Sandler’s “Little Nicky.” Here’s hoping that “Zohan” and “Guru” aren’t also destined for that alternate list.
10. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Mike Myers may be one of the most likeable characters to have emerged from SNL, but he’s also entirely responsible for “Shrek,” so I guess things have a funny way of evening out. Myers new flick “The Love Guru” looks like a tired re-hash of his specific, now dated, brand of humor, right down to the casting of “Mini-Me” Verne Troyer again. The O.G. Myers, on the other hand, was pretty funny. The first film in the Austin Powers series was as inescapably quotable as “Borat” or “Napoleon Dynamite” for its time, and Dr. Evil’s miniature henchman, like the rest of the spy spoof, was hysterical and fresh. I’m not so sure I wouldn’t choose “So I Married An Axe Murderer” over this film most nights of the week, but the introduction to Austin Powers tops the list of the best of Myers’ feature film work. The “Austin Powers” sequels suffered as they became less timely, and also partially due to leading ladies whose aesthetic beauty was trumped only by their questionable acting and comedy chops. (Heather Graham and Beyonce Knowles, anyone?)
Dr. Evil: Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet, each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry, and when Dr. Evil get angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, and when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset people die!
9. The Wedding Singer (1998)
Sandler is about as hit or miss as it gets. He’s tried just about everything at this point and you really have to give him credit for that. His dramatic films “Punch Drunk Love” and “Reign Over Me” are both above-average pictures that prove he’s capable of a remarkably wide range of roles. On the other hand, he’s also rocked some of the most absurd and ridiculous comedies (not in a good way) in recent memory like “Little Nicky” and “Mr. Deeds.” “The Wedding Singer” is Sandler’s best work to date, although I do have an odd soft spot for “Happy Gilmore.” The film captures the extremes of the 80s era in a perfect homage that is equal parts parody and adoration. It doesn’t hurt to have great chemistry with Drew Barrymore either, which also worked in the underappreciated “50 First Dates.” While they aren’t exactly the new Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, Sandler and Barrymore have a strange yet compelling onscreen partnership that just works. Throw in some 80s music, sweet feathered hairdos, and dated fashion and you’re good to go. Consequently, SNL alum Jon Lovitz, has his best 3 minutes on-camera since “Three Amigos” in this film as Sandler’s sinister wedding-singer competition.
Glenn’s buddy: Robbie Hart? Oh, man, I heard what happened to you at your wedding, that was so cold! You must’ve felt like shit!
Robbie: No, it felt real good, thanks for bringing that up, man. Hey, my parents died when I was ten, would you like to talk about that?
Glenn’s buddy: No, why would I wanna talk about that?
Robbie: I don’t know.
8. Scrooged (1988)
There are plenty of reasons to argue for any number of other Bill Murray films, including, but not limited to “Ghostbusters,” “Caddyshack,” “Groundhog Day,” “Lost in Translation,” “Rushmore,” “The Life Aquatic,” or even “Broken Flowers,” but when it comes right down to it, my favorite just might be “Scrooged.” A modern update of “A Christmas Story,” Murray plays Frank Cross, the head of a television network who has lost his concern for anyone in the world but himself. The film was directed by Richard Donner (the “Lethal Weapon” series) and co-stars Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) Carol Kane (“The Princess Bride”) and Bobcat Goldthwait (“Shakes the Clown”). I love the contemporary bearded and subdued Murray, but this comedy classic is a holida- must and some of his best work, even if it is a bit cheesy.
Frank Cross: Grace, what in the hell is this?
Grace: Oh, it’s a painting, one of my kids did. See, there’s Santa Claus and there’s Mrs. Claus.
Frank Cross: Honey, how many fingers does Mrs. Santa Claus have here?
Frank Cross: Eleven. Right.
Frank Cross: It’s crap. Lose it. I don’t want it on the wall.
7. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Good old Chevy Chase. Where oh where has that funny man gone; where oh where can he be? I honestly had a hard time deciding between “Vacation” and “Fletch.” Both are Chevy classics that belong on this list. Frankly, thanks to Randy Quaid – also a SNL alum! – “Christmas Vacation” may even have a right to fight for a spot, but the first film in the “Vacation” series is by far the best. No SNL alums have had a careers quite like Bill Murray or Eddie Murphy, but in the early post-SNL days it seemed like Chevy Chase was an institution that, like those two SNL titans, wasn’t likely to go away. But he did. Thankfully, we can always go back and visit the Griswalds on their cross-country trek to Wally World and Christie Brinkley in the second best girl-gets-out-of-the-swimming-pool-in-slow-motion shot ever (For number one, please see “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”).
Eddie: I got laid off when they closed that asbestos factory, and wouldn’t you know it, the army cuts my disability pension because they said that the plate in my head wasn’t big enough.
6. The Blues Brothers (1980)
Director John Landis and star Dan Aykroyd gave it their college best in 1998 with the tragically flawed sequel “Blues Brothers 2000″ to undo what Aykroyd and John Belushi’s Elwood and Jake Blues had done twenty years earlier on their mission from God. Fortunately, even that mystically horrid film can’t upend a true classic. Stephen Spielberg has made some sneaky cameos over the years, but his role in “The Blues Brothers” as the Cook County Assessor’s Office Clerk is his cameo high watermark and honestly, one of my favorite scenes in the film. Sadly, Belushi’s SNL career is a large chunk of what we have to go on to measure his incredible talent, but “The Blues Brothers” represents arguably the best SNL characters adapted for film in the long and varied relationship between SNL and features.
Jake: You were outside, I was inside. You were supposed to keep in touch with the band. I kept asking you if we were gonna play again.
Elwood: What was I gonna do? Take away your only hope? Take away the very thing that kept you going in there? I took the liberty of bullshitting you.
Jake: You lied to me.
Elwood: Wasn’t lies, it was just… bullshit.
5. Mean Girls (2004)
Recent SNL alum and current “30 Rock” star Tina Fey wrote and co-starred in “Mean Girls” with Rachel McAdams and a mostly pre-spectacle Lindsay Lohan. “Mean Girls” is the bright shining moment in teenager comedies over the last decade and may be the first truly great dark comedy about high school since “Heathers.” As a fan of SNL, I can tell you that Tina Fey is sorely missed as a writer and anchor on “Weekend Update,” but with her obvious talent, there’s very little question that TV and features is where she belongs.
Janis: Gretchen Wieners knows everybody’s business, she knows everything about everyone.
Damian: That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.
Janis: And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don’t be fooled because she may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag, but in reality, she’s so much more than that.
Damian: She’s the queen bee – the star, those other two are just her little workers.
4. Weird Science (1985)
The same year “Weird Science” was released, both Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. were doing their very abbreviated stints on SNL for the 1985-86 season. As a dorky young boy growing up in the 80s, “Weird Science” and “Real Genius” came along at just the right time. About then, I wanted to be a starship commander aboard the Millenium Falcon or a Naval aviator, but when I came back down to reality, I needed to see movies about geeks winning. Directed and written by the same John Hughes that wrote and directed beloved 80s classics “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science” is my favorite Hughes picture by far.
Garry: It can’t be a dream! How can 2 people have the same dream. Ok lets analyse this. In the middle of the night… did I get up… and yack in your sink?
Garry: Didn’t throw up? No? Maybe it was a dream then, you know… a very weird… bizarre… vivid… erotic… wet… detailed dream. Maybe we had malaria.
3. Coming to America (1988)
Outside of Bill Murray, it’s hard to argue that any SNL alum has had a more successful and prolific career than Eddie Murphy. While I loved the “Beverly Hills Cop” series as a kid, there’s no film that can top “Coming to America.” Also one of the more quotable films of all time, “Coming to America” features two of my favorite actors in James Earl Jones and John Amos, as well as a breakout performances from “ER”‘s Eric La Salle and a little-known Samuel L. Jackson (and the best fast-food humor ever). “Coming to America” was also directed by John Landis. Weird. I had no idea I was so down with the Landis until this list. Who knew?
Cleo McDowell: Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.
2. Waiting For Guffman (1996)
Easily one of the most indispensable films in my DVD collection, “Waiting for Guffman” is pure genius. Christopher Guest was another short-lived SNL cast member, around only for the 84-85 season, but that’s plenty to qualify his exceptional films for this list. I’m a big fan of all the films he’s made with his rotating ensemble of Chris Guest players in the films “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “For Your Consideration,” but none of them have eclipsed the glory of “Guffman.” Directed by Guest and written by Guest and SCTV alum Eugene Levy, “Guffman” deserved an Oscar for the brilliant original music in the film, but was completely overlooked. I don’t know what it is about this small-town community theater parody, but Guest tapped into a comedy goldmine and we get to reap all the benefits.
Libby Mae Brown: I been workin’ here at the D.Q. for about, um… eight months? Seven? I don’t know, somethin’ like that, it’s fun. Just do the cones… make sundaes, make Blizzards, ‘n… put stuff on ‘em, ‘n… see a lot of people come in, a lot of people come to the D.Q… burgers… ice cream… anything, you know? Cokes… just drive in and get a Coke, if you’re thirsty.
1. This is Spinal Tap (1984)
Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest were around for the 84-85 season. It took Michael McKean another decade to do his time on SNL in 1994. The trio’s collaboration with director Rob Reiner is at the top of so many of Eric and I’s top ten lists that we typically exclude it out of hand from the running, but it fit to perfectly into this list to skip it. All three stars are SNL alums, and “Spinal Tap” also features cameos from a few of SNL’s finest in Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal – who incidentally almost made the list with “When Harry Met Sally.” Not to mention, Spinal Tap actually performed their Satanic Christmas-themed nonhit “Christmas with the Devil” on SNL. (Since Lorne Michaels takes down anything SNL-related on YouTube at the drop of a hat, look at the video below for the Tap doing “the Devil” on Arsenio Hall instead– if anyone finds a link to the SNL version, please post!) I’ve said it before and look at me saying it all over again, “This is Spinal Tap” is the greatest comedy of all time, period.
Jeanine Pettibone: If it got solved, that would be alright, but it doesn’t get solved. I mean what do you think happened out there? What got solved tonight?
Ian Faith: For one thing that goes wrong… one… one single thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right. Do you know what I spend my time doing? I sleep two or three hours a night. There’s no sex and drugs for Ian, David. Do you know what I do? I find lost luggage. I locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin!
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