Saturday Night Live returned with host Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock but his thespian ways apparently necessitated a name change) revisiting for his fourth time. Perhaps a political cold open was not the expected way to go, but “The Rock Obama” served up some old school silliness that was funny if only because it was so ridiculous. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the cast and a game host can sell low-brow material, and Johnson’s participation this week proved that theory to the extreme. He was given ample opportunity to share that comic prowess as this episode was full of (mostly successful) skits.
The opening sketch imagined Jay Pharoah’s Barack Obama meeting with the Republican leadership and bottling up the anger he felt from their opposition. As with Bruce Banner before him, Obama’s anger boils over, causing his body to grow, clothes to rip, etc… You know the drill. He turns into “The Rock Obama” as Johnson takes over the role, effectively dealing with his Republican opposition with fear, intimidation, and physical violence. The opening was better than most, but I could have done without Leslie Jones as “She Rock Obama.” That was maybe slightly over the top.
After a musical opening monologue that lamely revolved around his status as “franchise Viagra,” the episode presented a commercial for Pepboys, imagining a scenario where Pepboys reacts to Starbucks recent racial issues by opening dialogues with their customers on issues of sexual identity. My favorite moment of the clip involved the criminally underused Vanessa Bayer uncomfortably reacting to Pepboys employee Bobby Moynihan as he delays her service for the discussion. Overall, it was an amusing trifle of a commercial.
“WWE Promo Shoot” played to Johnson’s strengths as a former wrestler. Johnson and Moynihan play competing wrestlers filming a promotional clip for their upcoming fight. Moynihan’s character uses the typical approach with props and a dog howl (his character’s name is Mutt). Johnson, on the other hand, uses painful family secrets and embarrassing facts about Mutt to torment him. As Johnson says, he’s going to rip him apart!!! Psychologically!!!
I kind of loved this clip mostly because of how it built to its intricate conclusion – Johnson “catfished” Moynihan using a photo of the illegitimate daughter he never knew he had. Again, this material is best only when sold, and frankly, I bought what they were selling.
Up next was SNL‘s take on “Disney’s Bambi,” a commentary on the Mouse House’s recent proclivity for turning their animated films into live action star vehicles. This one took Johnson and inserted him into the title role, a deer out for revenge after the untimely death of his mother. If you’ve seen SNL‘s “DJesus Uncrossed” (their old parody of Django Unchained), then you know what to expect from this one. There were two favorite moments here: The Rock recreating the infamous “butterfly lands on Bambi’s nose” scene and The Rock exclaiming “Deer crossing, M***** F*****!!!” while flying through the air, firing at his prey. You could do worse…
“Dinner Date” gives us Johnson as a balls-out, boner poppin’ ladies man who finds an old jury acquaintance (Kenan Thompson) and his wife (Bayer) out to dinner. The Rock (because I’m tired of calling him “Johnson”) again excels at playing a larger-than-life comic character, delivering his lines so quickly as to appear fully coked up. Cecily Strong plays Gemma, his British girlfriend, who sings a pop song called “Banana,” and I absolutely loved her performance here. I wouldn’t mind Gemma becoming a recurring character – something SNL sorely needs more of, believe it or not.
I was fully prepared to hate “The Jungle,” an Indiana Jones-tinted TNT movie parody where The Rock plays the Indiana Jones character, Kate McKinnon is the horny love interest (so one-note and underwritten that I can’t even remember her name), and Pete Davidson is “Short Long.” Your tolerance for this skit will entirely depend on how much you tolerate homoerotic humor. The gimmick here is that The Rock is trying to enter a sacred temple protected by poison dart-spitting natives. For various reasons, only Davidson’s “Short Long” can suck out the poison fast enough to save The Rock’s “Dr. Bones.” So, yeah, you know where this is going, and they go there… Kudos to Pete Davidson for his expert cartwheel. The skit was funny enough, but they really need to find better material for poor Kate McKinnon.
The sausage fest continues with another commercial parody, “Brogaine.” Again, this one is exactly what you think it is, rating a big “meh” from me.
Weekend Update featured Kate McKinnon in her fan-favorite character Olya Povlatsky as well as Kenan Thompson as “Willie.” Enjoy that.
“Cooking with Paul” features Kenan Thompson as the host of a cooking show with The Rock as his parole officer. The problem with the skit is that “Paul” is presumably a child sex offender who takes any opportunity he can to get on the Internet or call kids on the phone. This was the first outright bomb of the night – an unfunny and ill-advised journey into pedophilia.
There were a few other skits in the back end of the show (see below), but the bottom line on the episode is that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a very accomplished comic presence on Saturday Night Live, making him “SNL Viagra” when it sorely needed it.