10 SNL Sketches Turned Movies
With the departure of Bill Hader from Saturday Night Live still a fresh wound in our sides, some of us might be holding out hope that one of his best characters, Stefon, could have his own movie. While the uber-hip guide to New York’s Hottest Clubs has definitely given his final review, according to Hader (and had a glorious love affair with Seth Meyers), Lorne Michaels and crew seemed to think that many of the show’s more popular sketches throughout the years needed to be further developed on the big screen.
While some of those sketches became massive hits that turned into standalone cinematic classics, others floundered (Do you even remember that there was a Stuart movie?). Let’s take a look at the SNL sketches-turned-movies that have stood the test of time, and those that maybe should have remained as sketches nestled in the “Best Of” DVDs.
Will Forte’s beloved take on McGyver burst into movie theatres not long after his departure from SNL in 2010. The concept of MacGruber was simple in his two-minute sketches: the cunning agent would try to dismantle a bomb using household items and his own ingenuity, set to some blasting hard rock, but distractions would cause the bomb to explode before he could figure it out. In a full-length movie, even one starring the intensely likeable Kristen Wiig, that’s a bit hard to flesh out. The film earned buzz at SXSW, and has since gained a cult following, but it never really made much of a splash at the box office.
Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
Stuart Saves His Family is one of the bigger flops for SNL, bringing in less than $1 million for the franchise. The Al Franken character was always popular, a loveable but misguided self-help guru with his own cable-access show. But on the big screen, Stuart moved away from the cable access-format to deal with his equally weird family, and audiences just didn’t bite. No wonder Al Franken switched to politics.
Wayne’s World (1992)
Wayne’s World is one of the rare SNL movies that stands alone as its own pop culture sensation. The movie launched Mike Myers’ film career and boosted Dana Carvey further into comedy stardom. As Wayne and Garth, audiences loved seeing the duo take their public access show outside of the basement and try to navigate the real world. Critics loved it too, and the movie was so successful, it spurned an equally beloved sequel.
The Ladies Man (2000)
Tim Meadows’ best-known character on SNL was Leon Phelps, the sex-obsessed radio host with a bad ‘70s aesthetic who tried to help his listeners with their own sex problems. In the movie, Leon goes through every last one of his conquests to track down one special mystery lady who leaves him an intriguing note – while also being pursued by the husbands and boyfriends of those women he seduced. Leon may have made audiences roar once a week, but The Ladies Man was a box office bomb, pulling in only $14 million against a $24 million budget.
All Mary Katherine Gallagher ever wanted was to be a star, and she finally got her chance when the Molly Shannon-helmed sketches were turned into Superstar. The movie centered on Mary’s big shot at becoming a celebrity, when her Catholic high school sponsored a talent show that sent the winner to Hollywood to be an extra in a movie. After spending her time pining after hot popular boy Will Ferrell, it was bad boy Harland Williams who ultimately won her heart, and helped her achieve her dreams. While this movie did well at the box office, it was critically panned. Clearly they couldn’t see a star right in front of them.
A Night at the Roxbury (1998)
On SNL, the “Roxbury Guys” were a fan-favorite sketch, but a bit of a one-note concept; Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan would don their ridiculous matching suits, find a couple ladies at the club that they wanted to hook up with, and bob their heads in unison to “What is Love.” And yet, this somehow worked as a movie. Granted, this was by no means a masterpiece. But as a silly romp about two brothers trying to party their way through their thirties and open up the club of their dreams, it sufficed. Critics obviously hated it, but Haddaway certainly has the duo to thank for increased sales of his single.
It’s Pat (1994)
By far and wide, It’s Pat is the largest flop in SNL movie history, bringing in just $60,000 at the box office and holding a Rotten Tomatoes score of “0” to this day. Julia Sweeney co-wrote the script and starred in the movie version of her famous sketch about the puzzling, androgynous Pat, who nobody could ever quite figure out was a man or a woman. In the movie, Pat manages to find love with the equally gender-neutral Chris. Even with a slew of guest stars like Kathy Griffin, It’s Pat couldn’t get off the ground.
Office Space (1999)
Office Space, the Mike Judge cult classic, got its start as a series of animated shorts on SNL years before its success as a film. The shorts focused on the bumbling Milton character, who became a supporting role in a much larger universe when the story made it to the silver screen. Who didn’t identify with the tale of a fed-up office worker who decided to make himself a better life? Milton lived on in this all-around successful film.
Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin tried their hardest to adapt Coneheads for the big screen, but their efforts came about 16 years too late. By releasing the Coneheads movie so long after their sketch was popular, they lost the audience that would have paid to see it – and the money it would have earned as well. The movie centered on the Coneheads family settling down in the suburbs, and featured cameos from dozens of SNL alums, but it just didn’t work.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Jake and Elwood are the first SNL characters to get their own movie, and the film also remains the show’s most iconic venture into cinema. On the show, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi used their characters as more of a chance to showcase musical interludes than anything, but in the film, the brothers were fully fleshed out as they tried to get the band back together and save a Catholic orphanage from destruction. They were on a mission from Gawd, remember? The Blues Brothers have stood the test of time, and a funny, but less memorable Blues Brothers 2000 sequel came years later.
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