I like some of those old early 90s Saturday Night Live One-Shot Character Full Length Spin off Films. I didn't drink coffee this morning ... but when I got home I drank coffee ... so now I am all ready to do something ... so I'm gonna write down words.
Alright, so what I'm setting out to do here is find what was the best Saturday Night Live spinoff film, but this genre is somewhat more complex than it seems.
Anyone who knows what I'm talking about knows a great deal of these films are not very good ... but we're not gonna be rating them on a standard scale of how you'd rate films. This genre being as unique as it is ... we shall apply a specific ranking system to achieve analysis on the quality of the films.
My system is basically a raw score (based on how you'd rate any movie) but then a series of BONUS points shall be added based on how the film makers overcame obstacles inherent to the making of these films.
These bonus points are going to be based on the following ... How difficult was it for the people involved in this film to take this content (one-shot character) and create a 1.5 hour full length content film based around them. So, with this metric involved even some horrible ones will be getting decent scores because we have to put ourselves into the people involved in these films shoes and realize what a herculean task it must have in some cases to work with the content they had to work with.
Take, It's Pat, which is a real film that I am not just making up and pretending it does exist ... it exists in actual human reality .... it really truly was made and I saw it in the era it was made in the early 90s. Now, if you're not familiar with Pat ... the joke on SNL was that no one knew if the human was male or female and situational comedy would (sort of) be created with that premise. If I was a writer or director and somehow got tied up with this vehicle .... I wouldn't have any idea how to create a full length "It's Pat" movie .... that's beyond a herculean task ... it's genuinely insane to ask people to work with that content and make it work.
You starting to understand why the rating system will have difficulty modifying bonus points? If you still don't... here.... just try and pretend you are exiting your body and are now being Quantum Leaped into the early nineties into the body of a writer or director ... and you've signed on to do some SNL movie ... and a lady walks in and tells you ...
.... "Okay, We're gonna make It's Pat ... The Movie! "
Where the hell would you even start? Like, it's insane that anyone was ever put into a situation where they were asked to take "It's Pat" and make a full length motion picture ... it's crazy.
Anyways, you get the rating system now so on with the show...
(Note: This is only for spin-offs of characters on SNL ... movies like Austin Powers aren't in here ... it's only characters from the show that were made into full length films.)
1. Blues Brothers
Content they had to Work with: Two men dress up in suits, sun glasses, and hats ... and sing Blues music.
That's not that difficult to work with because these characters were just a Look and had nothing really fleshed out yet for them which gives the writers and creators lots of room to work with.
There's so many ways they could have went and the way they chose made sense. They were these two guys who don't speak much, one recently released from prison, and all they want to do is re-unite their former band and sing Blues music again. It's a simple premise ... and simple premises usually tend to work ..... and this movie did.
It was a full length variety show, really. With all the celebrity musical guests (including JAMES BROWN) it basically went like 25 minutes of movie ... musical number ... 25 minutes ... musical number ... 25 minutes ... car chase .... musical interlude .... car chase .... Ending. Great progression, beautiful use of time and segmentation.
For villains they threw in some crazy ex-wives and some Nazis (Illinois Nazis) to round it out. All in all it's a great film.
As far as bonus points for difficulty goes, none will be awarded because all these characters came with was a Cool Look and a Cool Look is not hard to work with ... there wasn't really any other datum hinged on these characters other than that they looked pretty cool and liked Blues music.
I'm not gonna get into Blues Brothers 2000, that kind of felt like a sort of tribute film to the first one.
Raw Score: 89
Difficulty Modifier Bonus: 0
Total Score: 89
Content they had to Work with: Two dudes do a cable access show out of their basement and love heavy cock rock music.
Not much to go on but it was something that could easily be made into a buddy comedy and that's what they did with it. This came out when MTV was really starting to hit its stride with the cock rock videos.
Kids now a days know MTV as the place to watch reality shows but in the 90s it was a place to see Music Videos and the early 90s is when MTV really took off.
In the 80s there weren't that many music videos to show. The Residents were making videos for their "songs" and they were probably the only ones. In the late 80s Mojo Nixon invaded MTV and started making videos. Eventually every band started doing this and by like 1991 MTV was a behemoth of Rock and Roll vignettes.
Wayne's World hit at the best possible time. The rock and roll persona for these two dudes fit with the times and what the young people wanted. Growing up in this era, I can assure you that Wayne's World was HUGE ... I even played the adventure video game of Wayne's World where you throw this Pizza-Thon to save your cable access show ... that game was cool.
Being a young kid in this era this film will always be fondly remembered ... and with all honesty I liked the sequel even better than the first one which never happens in movies. I loved Wayne's World 2 ... I even used to do the whole "we beat him to death with his own shoes" story word-for-word on command at school.
I won't be giving it d-mod points though either because to have MTV oriented characters release a film aimed at MTV audience during the meteoric rise of MTV wasn't really difficult at all to work with.
Raw Score: 91
Difficulty Modifier Bonus: 0
Total Score: 91
3. Cone Heads
Content they had to Work with: A family of Aliens with cone-shapes heads.
Okay ... now after the commercial success of Wayne's World I think the people behind these SNL spinoff movies were ready to start churning these out like butter.
But why Coneheads? It's not even characters from the 90s era when this film was made. These characters were from the 70s era of SNL. It seems like a strange set of characters to try and make a full length movie with.
I bet this was always being pitched as a movie or show since the 70s and most people said no to it. The 1996 show Third Rock from the Sun was likely born as a Coneheads show (Jane Curtin being in the cast of Third Rock seems to make that more plausible too). I think why it took 20+ years to make a movie version of Coneheads was probably because those people saying no for 20+ years were probably right.
Okay so they are Aliens with cone-shaped heads, that's great, how is this gonna become a 2 hour feature?
I don't really remember much from this film even though I know I've seen it probably more than once. I remember they get into "fish-out-of-water" style situations often and don't understand earth customs. Fish out of Water can be funny but I prefer it with weird foreigner characters (like Borat or Balky) .... but with Cone Headed Aliens, of course they're weird and will find mundane things difficult to understand and people will find them weird, it's a given. With foreigner-buffoon characters like Borat doing Fish-out-of-Water the comedy is more subtle and works better. Watching Balky Bartokomus or Borat not understand normal situations is funnier than forcing the bit so much by giving the Fish outta Waters cones for fucking heads.
I remember Akroyd has to go back to his planet and fight a beast unleashed upon him by Doug McKenzie in some ritual Star Trek jive kind of thing near the end. I'm not gonna re-watch it to remember it ... it's not worth it. Cone Heads is not a good movie.
They only place they could go was Fish-out-of-Water with it and that's where they did go ... I guess they ran out of bits eventually and flew him off to space to fight monsters. I dunno why they even bothered making a god damned Coneheads movie for, it gets difficulty points for sure but even then this is not a well made film.
Raw Score: 29
Difficulty Modifier Bonus:15
Total Score: 44
4. It's Pat
Content they had to Work with: A human is not known to other people who come in contact with it whether it is a Male Human or a Female Human.
I was talking about this one in the intro and setting up why I needed to put a D-Mod bonus. This is beyond a head scratcher ... maybe it's in some SNL actors contracts that they are guaranteed a feature film or something of that nature.
Why make an It's Pat movie for? I mean, the joke of that people don't know if it's a girl or a boy lasts for what like 5 seconds? How are you gonna make a 2 hour movie about this?
I saw this when it came out and even as a youngster I wondered how the people involved in making this managed to squeeze a movie out of this content. This is another one I wouldn't re-watch to refresh my memory... the whole movie has to do with people not knowing whether Pat is a girl or a boy and it's not helped by Pat having a romantic partner played by Dave Foley who's always very androgynous.
I think at some point the writers just gave the fuck up ... I remember a scene where a black street gang demands AT KNIFE POINT whether Pat is a "Brothah" or a "Sistah" but Pat still does not divulge his/her gender specification. Near the end, a man Pat knows loses his mind over not knowing Pat's gender, kidnaps him/her, and forcefully tries to determine the sex of the creature but to no avail.
My Gosh .... this has a rating of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm gonna give it 0 too but I'm gonna heap on so many D-Mod points here because to even make a movie and get it released on video based on the one-shot character of Pat deserves some kind of medal or general merit badge of some manner.
Raw Score: 0
Difficulty Modifier Bonus: 65
Total Score: 65
5. Stuart Saves his Family
Content they had to Work with: A non-licensed group therapist with a lisp hosts a self-help-book style cable access program.
This one is probably hated by most people but I will say right outta the gate that I liked this movie. The behind the scenes people had a little more experience, I'd say, than other SNL one-shot spin-offs ... it was directed by Harold Ramis (rest in peace Egon) and written and starred in by Al Franken who did more writing on SNL than bitting whilst on that show.
I remember this bit, I thought the one with Michael Jordan wearing a sweater and self-affirming his low esteem with Stuart Smalley was fucking funny ... but a full length movie? How's it gonna work?
With Ramis and Franken, I think you got a lot more out of the character you would have if other people made the film. This could have easily been another "It's Pat" but it wasn't. Where they took this highly emotional character worked (I think anyway). It's very early in the film that you start to be endeared to Smalley and start to root for him.
The premise breaks away early on from the cable access show as he loses it within like the first scene .... after he calls his boss a VAGINA and quits .... then this character has to go home to attend a funeral and we're introduced to his family (the one in the title we learned he has to save) ... and the film becomes a dysfunctional family vehicle that about 99.9% of people can relate to.
His dad is the judge guy from Ghostbusters 2 who gets pissed and who's anger awakens the Scolari Brothers!
This movie flopped, probably because many people made the sane judgement before seeing it of "How the fuck and why is there a damned Stuart Smalley movie!?" ... but if you give this little film a chance you'd see it's not as horrible as it could have been, and in the end it's ...
... Good Enough, Smart Enough and Dog-gone-it People like it.
Raw Score: 55
Difficulty Modifier Bonus:25
Total Score: 80
6. A Night at the Roxbury
Content they had to Work with: Two Italianized fellows enjoy going to dance clubs, making exaggerated movements with their necks, and hitting on chicks.
Look before I say that I don't like this movie let me just set up first....
When you're like 9-15 years old SNL is like the holy grail. Staying up until 11:30 at night for a 9-15 year old is like seeing the pacific ocean for the first time for a sea-faring adventurer. Having a friend sleep over and stay up, drinkin' sprites n' 7-ups, until SNL comes on was like the greatest moment in a kids life at that age.
After 15, you've been there and done that ... and by the time you're 18 ... only losers/dorks/turds/nerds are home on a Saturday night at 11:30 pm ... 18+ year olds are in their party years by that time.
My 9-15 SNL holy grail period was from the years 1991 to 1998 ... so those SNL years for me is when it meant something to me. I was a kid, drinking 7-ups n' stayin' up super late ... but by 1998 I didn't give 10 shits about SNL anymore.
It's not only an age-wise thing, but also because, the show sucked ass in 1998! The main bits were two cheerleaders (THAT THEY DID EVERY FUCKING NIGHT!) and Kattan would come on and look annoying. If I was home on a Saturday in 1998 and after ... I wouldn't even tune in. The Fox affiliate came out with two new shows to compete with SNL in the late 90s ... MadTv and the Fox affiliate in my region bought the Howard Stern E! Show to air opposite SNL.
I would watch either SNL or MADTV (whichever didn't suck as much as the other), until the Weekend Update ... then I'd watch the news with Norm MacDonald then after him the Stern E! Show would come on and I'd get to see that good show. So basically I just watched Weekend Update in that era if I was home.
I was not a fan of SNL in this era and it was mainly just an age thing ... I grew out of it. So these characters don't have the same fondness in my memories as say a Wayne, a Garth, or a Stuart Smalley have but I'm sure for people 5-10 years younger than me these characters are their Holy Grail characters.
Will Ferrel has come a long way since this bomb came out. Elf is one of the greatest Christmas movies ever made ... he should be very proud of his comedy record.
Chris Kattan? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.
If you have nothing nice to say about someone's comedic prowess than maybe you should just say nothing at all ... and I will say nothing about Chris Kattan.
Raw Score: 10
Difficulty Modifier Bonus: 35
Total Score: 45
Content they had to Work with: A mentally retarded girl smells her fingers after putting them under her armpits (ad nauseam).
I watched this because Harland Williams plays a Fonzie character and I wanted to see that ... and Kid in the Hall Bruce McCulloch directed it who is fucking funny .... but I didn't make it to the end of this movie. I mean, sure I wanted to see if there were a couple more Harland as Fonzie scenes, but, I couldn't handle it.
Taking a one-shot who smells her armpits and turning that into 2 hours of film ... ya, good look with that guys. I'm sure it wasn't a walk in the ol' park this one. I commend your efforts Mr. Bruce ... but this was not a winning battle to engage in. There were not many scenarios of possibility where this was going to be a great movie.
Raw Score: 7
Difficulty Modifier Bonus:50
Total Score: 57
8. Ladies Man
Content they had to Work with: A man who claims to have an above-averaged sized "wang" hosts a cable access show where he helps callers with their relationship issues.
Ok, so .... Tim Meadows lives in a boat .... he bangs that Baywatch chick when she was still hot ... um, he wrestles Will Ferrell in a mansion ... and uhhh ... that's all my brain is picking up when trying to recall this film.
You know how if you work at the same company for like 50 years the company gives a nice watch? I think this movie was Tim Meadow's nice watch. Lorne Michaels came to him one day and was like,
"Mmmm-kay, Tim, yes, you've worked here at SNL now for 50 years and your devotion as token black guy on this program hasn't gone un-noticed ... so we shall now award you with a gift certificate for Olive Garden and a full length feature film, mmmmmmmm-kay?"
Meadows was on that show forever and there's only 2 bits I can remember him doing. He would dress up as Ike Turner and beat up Kevin Nealon ... and there was one where he was a piano lounge singer and he sang that fun song about that one Chinese kid who was no dope.
He paid his dues, he got his 2 hour feature vignette. I'm gonna add a special bonus point category for Tim.
Raw Score: 8.5
Difficulty Modifier Bonus: 30
Tim Meadow's Retirement Present - Commemorative Gold Watch: 20.5
Total Score: 59
SNL Feature Vignette Leader Board
1. Wayne's World! - 91
2. Blues Brothers - 89
3. Stuart Saves his Family - 80
4. It's Pat - 60
5. Ladies Man - 59
6. Superstar - 57
7. Night at the Roxbury - 45
8. Coneheads - 44
Bonus: Figurative Theoretical Ones
Gonna do some theoretical ones too, while we're here. Gonna include some MadTV one-offs too ... I mean this section is speculative of what might have been so it doesn't have to be iron-cast in human reality ... so including MadTv one-offs isn't illegal in this topic.
Here's some more possible 90s one-off films that would have sucked or even might have been good.
1. Ms. Swan
Content they had to Work with: An Asian woman walks around and describes people as "looking like a man".
I didn't understand this bit. At all. You do it once, "he-a luk-a like-a ... man." Okay, couple laughs, good job ... the throw away line worked okay, good for you ... but they proceeded to do this bit EVERY SHOW for YEARS! How can you do this? Even Ray-Jay fucking Johnson threw a couple curve-balls at David Steinberg now and then. Mrs. Swan comes out ... she says the line .... and that's it.
Sometimes I wish there was a Comedy Prison and Comedy Police to enforce Comedy Laws. Mrs. Swan should be in Comedy Prison ... a lot of MadTV people should be there. The tall guy that did the young character with ugly make-up on his face? That guy does not deserve to walk amongst the land of the living and do bits ... he belongs in comedy prison. Chris Kattan would have probably benefited from a few stints in the Comedy Big House as well.
The Mrs. Swan movie would have been a crime drama where she witnesses a crime and has to testify against the killer ... and the killer wants to kill her so she can't testify .... and a cop is ordered to protect Mrs. Swan from the killer .... and they get into hyjinx ... and every 5 fucking seconds she has to claim someone looks like a man. The end. 0/10.
2. Church Lady
Content they had to Work with: A homely and wry woman hosts a religious themed cable access show.
This one would've worked. Dana when he's on can bring shit to life (except in that one where he wears like a turtle costume and shit).
I would've went full fantasy with this one and loaded it with CG. Like, Satan invades a small town and this one Yenta (the only lady in town who still believes in the god n' the jesus) is the only thing in Satan's way from world domination.
Satan's CG graphics are fire-oriented shit and Church Lady's CG gimmick is like Holy/Light (or "Pearl" oriented if you're Ted Woolsey) CG graphics ... and like at the end she battles Satan with the glorious power of prayer and it's very very epic. 7/10.
3. That's My White Mama
Content they had to Work with: a slightly over-weight white man hits an old black lady with his car yet in a miraculous twist the spirit of the dying black woman leaves her corporeal body and enters into the man who hit her with the car ... she then proceeds home and resumes raising her children.
Haha, this bit is fucking funny. It's like that great show "My Mother the Car" except it's like a black lady's ghost is in a white dudes body.
The bit is based on that incredible (and I personally can't believe actually existed) premise that Dick Van Dyke's brother's mother's spirit inhabited a car and moved in with him. My White Momma in turn starred Artie Lange as the "White Momma" ....
As a movie? It would have worked on sooo many levels. The two characters sharing the body would start fighting over it and race relations in America would have been explained, understood and solved by a white man and black woman learning to share the same body. I would have formulated the movie like this:
My Mother the Car + The Water Melon Man + The Thing with Two Heads
Just mix those all up and make like the best movie.
Watermelon Man is about this white guy who goes to bed and wakes up black and those elements would have served well in a movie like this. The Things with Two Heads is about this white man who puts his head on Rosey Grier's body (it's even STRANGER than it sounds).
This movie would have worked. 110%.