The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Anna Kendrick

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Anna Kendrick sings, dances, and lights up a stage — but how will she fare next to the SNL cast? This is the first time the actress will appear on the series, and she seems ready for anything. Will the fans get a Pitch Perfect joke? Will Pharrell (our musical guest) and his hat (sure to be joked about at least 10,000 times tonight) take over the show? Can Kendrick keep the winning streak going after Louis C.K.’s appearance last week? Find out, below.

The Best

“Anna Kendrick Musical Opening”

This is the first of several instances in the episode where SNL was smart and used Kendrick’s musical theater background to liven things up. The exuberant actress leads the cast in a Broadway meets Beauty and the Beast opening that instantly captures our attention. We’ve commented on the ridiculous number of cast members before, particularly since several are sorely underused, and this musical “monologue” proves it with a packed stage. I guess the writers have been saving them all up for a moment like this.

“Fox and Friends: Obamacare and Climate Change”

What will SNL rely on when Obamacare is no longer a thing? Kendrick plays a woman devastated by the President’s healthcare initiative, but she’s really just a blackout drunk. Kenan Thompson’s Neil deGrasse Tyson is forgettable; Vanessa Bayer’s anchor is in denial about her husband’s porn addiction (the darkest joke of the bunch); Bobby Moynihan’s ditzy talking head remains entertaining, with a dopey joke about Frozen.

“The Little Mermaid”

Kendrick is dishing out all the Disney hits this episode, this time turning to The Little Mermaid — except her version of Ariel enjoys singing Ke$ha and Iggy Azalea instead of the Mouse House songbook. Aidy Bryant works that Ursula/Glenn Close hair with aplomb. Fun times all around. We even get Jay Pharoah kicking it old school with Sean Paul’s “Temperature,” although it closes the sketch with a bit of a whimper. I guess I was hoping to hear Kendrick scream, “Britney, bitch!”

“Flirty”

Kyle Mooney and Vanessa Bayer are two neighbors flirting awkwardly, but neither has the nerve to ask the other out. The saccharine adorbs slowly dissipate when we see the duo in the laundry room and later when Beck Bennett’s bro-dude shows up —both unexpected, hilarious moments. This is the second week in a row SNL’s potty humor didn’t kill a sketch for me. Wild times!

“Weekend Update: Angela Merkel, Brooks Wheelan, and George R.R. Martin”

McKinnon’s German Chancellor Angela Merkel returns to discuss Putin and flirt with an equally wooden Colin Jost (someone check this man’s pulse). Her CrossFit and “Tiny Dancer” jokes are aces. The rarely seen Brooks Wheelen shows up to discuss drinking, butter, and STDs. This is perhaps his best “Weekend Update” monologue yet. We get Bobby Moynihan’s creepy George R.R. Martin who has burned himself out by writing too much Game of Thrones fanfic. With the GoT season four premiere tonight, I’m surprised this was all SNL could come up with. Also, Bobby’s beard fail was distracting. I kept hoping the comedian would have acknowledged it with an impromptu joke, but no dice.

“French Dance: Anna Kendrick”

A smorgasbord of pop culture references and a French New Wave-style dance routine that has plenty of randomness and lots of charm. These “Les Jeunes De Paris” segments are a lot of fun, but Kendrick’s song/dance experience and glowing stage presence really sold it this time.

“Principal Frye: Field Trip”

Jay Pharoah’s beloved Principal Frye makes a smashing return, giving us very concerned talks about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and monkeys who use SnapChat. “Students never trust a monkey in the matters of love, ok?” He also manages to work in a dig at Drake. As much as I want to see Pharoah continue to branch out from this character, it’s hard not to love the frazzled Frye.

The Worst

“GM Hearings Cold Open”

Kate McKinnon plays GM CEO Mary Barra, who is quick to remind people that she’s part of the “new GM,” but doesn’t want to answer any questions about the recent recall before Congress. There’s only so many times she can insist that “they’re looking into it” before the joke just falls flat.

“Dongs All Over the World”

I’m of two minds about “Dongs All Over the World,” because the ladies did a similar sketch with “(Do It In My) Twin Bed.” That iteration of empowered female sexuality felt far more creative and had a fun nostalgic visual set-up, while there’s nothing all that interesting about a bunch of horny women on an airplane. Still, I am all for the ladies boasting about being “international nasty girls” and “dongs, of course, because SNL is often heavy on the cheap gags about women (their periods, their emotionality, their everything).

“Big Joe”

The strongman of an old-timey mining town turns out to be useless when it really matters. Let’s just pretend this one never happened.

“Pharrell Audition”

Pharrell auditions new singers and meets an off-key Vanessa Bayer and a capable Anna Kendrick who belt out a song from “Rent.” We get a Pharrell’s hat joke, which just feels stale at this point — but at least we can always count on SNL to be slightly behind on pop culture matters.

Also: The NCAA “best of the white guys” fictional compilation was full of snark, but not terribly funny. That one you can watch here.

Musical Guest: Pharrell