SNL Ranked: Dakota Johnson Is Fifty Shades of Great
Dakota Johnson truly impressed in Fifty Shades of Grey, bringing genuine humor and personality to a character who was entirely humorless and lifeless on the page. If you’ve seen her smaller role in 21 Jump Street, you already knew she had some comedic chops. Johnson’s effortless likability and timing translate well to her hosting gig on this week’s SNL, which delivers a fairly consistent episode with few flaws. Read on for this week’s SNL sketches ranked from the greatest to the not-as-great.
Say What You Wanna Say (Ensemble)
It’s not easy being a woman, like when you stop yourself from saying things to be polite because you know, that’s what’s expected of us. Playing with the idea of a commercial that empowers women, this short (the second of the night) has the ladies of SNL celebrating themselves as they just say what’s really on their minds. Bryant’s dance moves are incomparable, but really, everyone is on point here. Johnson and McKinnon’s interactions might be my favorite—particularly McKinnon’s bathroom sequence, which is just beyond.
Father Daughter Ad (Johnson, Killam, Mooney)
Last time SNL took on topical terrorism, things didn’t work out so well. This time? Oh man. The concept is simple and direct, with a good build-up: Johnson is going off to college and her father is bidding her a tearful farewell, only to reveal that she’s heading off to join the nefarious terrorist group. The brevity also helps.
Fifty Shades of Grey Press Junket (Johnson, Killam, McKinnon, Mooney)
Mooney always plays kid characters well, but he has the tendency to get a little redundant with them. Not in this sketch with Johnson as herself and Mooney as a precocious and very odd fourth grade kid interviewing her about Fifty Shades of Grey. Mooney has shown up in every sketch so far this week, proving how valuable he’s become on the cast (and for good reason). Johnson doesn’t have to do a whole lot here—she’s sweet and mostly provides set-up for punchlines. And yes, that was a real excerpt from the Fifty Shades of Grey novel.
Mr. Riot Films (Mooney, Bennett, Thompson)
Women be bullied! I’m a huge Mooney and Bennett devotee, and their shorts are often the best thing each week they appear. This one doesn’t rank among their best, but it’s just odd and specific enough (as always) to be enjoyable. The pair play YouTube stars who do “social experiments,” showing how real people (and in this case, they are definitely real) react to situations like a lost kid, bullying, or women being denied equal pay. Their public skits are like high school kids role-playing scenarios during an awareness seminar mixed with MTV hidden camera shenanigans. It’s bad on purpose, which doesn’t always land, but I can’t help but love them together.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Pharoah, Moynihan)
OH GOD this whole dress debacle. Blaming ISIS is a solid choice for a joke, since they apparently have no choice but to address it, but I wish this dress thing never happened. Speaking of which, their ISIS jokes are bountiful and pretty hilarious tonight. McKinnon delivers a fun and sassy Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while Jay Pharoah drops in with his always nuts Kanye West impression, tackling the whole Beck thing and performing a pretty funny rap filled with narcissistic apologies (like voting for himself for Best Actor instead of Michael Keaton).
But the real highlight is Bobby Moynihan returning as Riblet! This has instantly become one of my favorite characters, maybe even more so than Drunk Uncle, and one I quote with my best friend all the time now. “Riblet can do both jorbs! Riblet works real hord!” Honestly, Weekend Update only ranks this high this week because of Riblet. Praise Riblet.
Net Neutrality (Zamata, Johnson, Moynihan, Jones, Davidson)
What an accurate collection of internet types. Jones’ YouTube commenter steals it, opening with “First!” before going right into that damn dress debacle and actually making me laugh about it. Johnson is equally as effective as a homely blogger who doesn’t get out much and uses juvenile concepts to describe Net Neutrality—which no one actually knows how to describe. That’s fairly apt. I mean, ask your friends to describe it to you.
Cinderella (Johnson, Strong, Killam, Mooney, Moynihan)
Strong’s delightfully trashy Kathy Ann character is so great and so specific to a certain type of working class woman—it’s probably one you’ve met before. The more specific SNL gets with characters, the better, and I love the incorporation of the contemporary Kathy Ann in the whimsical fairy tale world of Cinderella, where Johnson does good work supporting Strong as the slightly straight character.
Emergency Room (Johnson, Thompson, Killam, Jones, Bayer, Davidson)
This feels like vintage ‘90s SNL, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We haven’t gotten enough Thompson or Jones tonight, so it’s nice to see them featured. Thompson’s cosplay doctor dressed as Worf is such an earnest concept, and one that doesn’t entirely work. Johnson’s nurse cracking up (which almost seems like a legit break) and Thompson’s delivery of “he dead” are the highlights, and I can’t knock the sketch too much for trying to honor Leonard Nimoy in a way that’s not maudlin or too obvious. Eh. It’s okay.
Monologue (Johnson, Mooney, McKinnon)
Johnson is just so darn likable! And she delivers that Oscar season line perfectly. She’s cracking jokes about (and at the expense of) Fifty Shades of Grey, even tossing in a little humor about its target audience (moms) and winning pretty much everyone over. Speaking of which, her parents Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson put in an appearance following her cute anecdote about Griffith’s time hosting in the ‘80s. Let’s see if she can keep it up for the rest of the show.
I Can’t (Johnson, Moynihan, Strong, Bryant)
Literally. I can’t even. But like, literally. Millennials, am I right? All that vocal fry and “literally” and “I can’t even.” Johnson, Moynihan and Strong are dead on as vapid, melodramatic twenty-somethings who only speak and relate in hyperbole. It gets a little repetitive after a couple of minutes and seems to meander just as much as a legit twenty-something does. Strong’s “I am trying to can but I literally can’t even” is the best, though.
Giuliani Cold Open (Bayer, Killam, Moynihan, Johnson, Bennett)
I guess with all those Oscar wins, Birdman spoofs are timely again. This one doesn’t quite work, with Killam playing Rudy Giuliani, struggling with his inner self over his recent “Obama doesn’t love America” comment. Killam and Bennett do well, but the bit ultimately falls flat and Bayer feels like a weirdly lifeless accessory.