Now 4th-time Dwayne Johnson came with the most energy the a host has had since Kevin Hart’s show back in January – maybe even more? He unsurprisingly proved to really transcend the show just on pure energy and commitment with every sketch appearance he had. And with Michael Keaton and Taraji P. Henson following him, it feels like we’ll have a great stretch of three spring shows that can pull SNL out of its’ recent array of inconsistencies (no names *coughblakesheltondakotajohnsoncough*).
COLD OPEN: THE ROCK OBAMA (Pharoah, Killam, Mooney, Moynihan, Johnson, Zamata, Bennett, Jones)
Dwayne Johnson did this sketch twice in 2009 with a mostly different cast (save Moynihan and Kenan Thompson). There was even a different person playing the president! It’s just a thrill to see how much he loves playing The Rock Obama. Just when I wondering if they would do anything different this time: boom. She Rock Obama.
DWAYNE JOHNSON MONOLOGUE (Johnson, Zamata, Bryant, McKinnon, Strong)
“Franchise Viagra” are two words I wasn’t quite expecting to hear as the subject of a song. It wasn’t the most memorable thing in the world, but still, Johnson was having the time of his life singing about it. It really did set the tone of the night for all the energy The Rock was cooking. I could smell it. See what I did there? (Also: Did I miss something?? This guy sings???)
PEPBOYS (Strong, Moynihan, Bayer, Bennett, Killam, Mooney, Bryant, McKinnon, Pharoah, Zamata)
I need to see if this one grows on me later, but…I don’t know. The idea of targeting the doomed Starbucks campaign #RaceTogether is a good one. However, in execution, it was somehow a little uncomfortable to watch. That’s obviously the point, but I’m not sure. I think the direction of a good idea just went into a place where it didn’t necessarily need to go in order to make its’ point.
WWE PROMO SHOOT (Johnson, Moynihan, Killam, Mooney)
To prepare for this match effectively, Coco hired a lawyer to dig up personal information on his opponent Trashyard, and also spent 8 months catfishing him. The only thing possibly funnier than the lines The Rock was bellowing would be Moynihan’s reactions. “THAT IS SO INTRICATE!!”
NEW DISNEY MOVIE (Johnson, Killam, Pharoah, Strong, Moynihan, Mooney, Davidson)
Yes. I would watch the heck out of this. Also: deer puns.
DINNER DATE (Thompson, Bayer, Johnson, Strong, Bennett)
This was good just because of the sheer energy and chemistry between Johnson and Cecily Strong. It’s the kind of sketch that could have easily gone wrong (or just played off as annoying) in the hands of the wrong host. However, now I’m wondering if I wouldn’t mind a $5.00 Walmart-bin movie for a Friday night at home featuring these two just bothering people, getting into mischief. And of course, singing about bananas.
THE JUNGLE (Davidson, Johnson, McKinnon, Mooney)
This went exactly where I was afraid it would go. But credit where credit is due: The Rock was selling the absolute heck out of this material, even if it was low-hanging fruit. (But it still wasn’t good.)
BROGAINE (Bennett, Mooney, Davidson, Zamata, Thompson, Johnson)
This was okay at best, but definitely not anything special in the Mooney/Bennett lineup of pre-produced videos. That comes from a mix of both the plot and the same ‘bro’ voices they’ve used in most of their pre-produced sketches. It felt like any other one, which makes me wonder if I’ll remember it in two days time. Although, I did like Beck Bennett’s “WHOO-HOO!!!”
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Thompson)
Another solid Update! Kate McKinnon’s Olya Povlatsky returns, fully recharged with more life than the average recurring character. (Somehow, an Olya Povlatsky segment in 2015 is the last place I expected to hear a joke on Kelly Rowland.) Che’s neighbor Willie also returns to talk about the joys of spring, despite just how awful his life has become. It’s a little more biting, but just as enjoyable as his Christmas appearance. Update in 2015 has started to become looser in general – I wish we would have had more time for our two anchors to continue their #RaceTogether chat. Also, Colin Jost has just been on fire behind the desk in 2015, and I’m not sure we’re fully realizing it.
COOKING WITH PAUL (Thompson, Johnson)
How goofy this was. But somehow, once again, Kenan Thompson finds a way to make one joke fun to watch for three minutes. I think this may be the only sketch in which Johnson was playing the straight man while something weird happened around him. Also, on twitter last night, someone referenced that this character is what happens when one of Kenan’s All That characters from the 90s, Pierre Escargot, grows up.
IMPROV SHOW (Zamata, Bryant, Davidson, Bennett, Mooney, McKinnon, Strong)
Kate McKinnon makes a pretty eerie Robert Durst. Alas, for those of us who started this sketch hoping for a return of last fall’s High School Theatre Group Sketch with Cameron Diaz, it was quite the disappointment with the weirdest choice for a focus (topical or not). I’m still not certain if there was a point here, other than the show acknowledging this guy.
INTERROGATION (Johnson, Bayer, Killam)
Good lord, this was something. It was very short, but there are so many great lines and deliveries by The Rock with these lame insults. Once again, he sells the heck out of material – but unlike the jungle sketch, here it just slays. I laughed the lost at this sketch – and then it just stops. There’s no way the original creation of this sketch was this short.
I will say: this crack at Mooney’s awkward on-the-street interviews is definitely better than his attempt meant for the 40th anniversary special. Although the point is the incessant awkwardness of him approaching these people, there’s also a charm to it at times that I felt more here than his prepared anniversary segment.
Best Sketch of the Night: New Disney Movie
Worst Sketch of the Night: The Jungle
Joke of the Night: “Do you really expect us to just sit here and follow the yellow brick lies?!” – Johnson (Runner up: his catfishing of Moynihan in the WWE Promos)
Observations: Most of the hosts have been great in SNL’s 40th season, but The Rock is definitely one who should be noted as a potential frequent each year. 2009 was his last hosting job, and on this show, he displayed a fantastic amount of infectious energy. Seriously, he was on fire for 90 solid minutes, being as committed as ever with each and every minute. Can you imagine some of these sketches with someone like Justin Bieber or Paris Hilton hosting? (Just a friendly reminder that this happened.) Otherwise, this truly felt like an episode in which everyone returned from a two-week hiatus feeling very refreshed. Let’s keep it going for Birdman and Cookie these next two weeks!
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.81
Next time: Michael Keaton!
Martin Freeman: 6.98
Bill Hader: 6.91
Kevin Hart: 6.86
Dwayne Johnson: 6.81
Chris Hemsworth: 6.81
James Franco: 6.81
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Cameron Diaz: 6.78
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
J.K. Simmons: 6.70
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Dakota Johnson: 5.62
Blake Shelton: 5