The next time Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson hosts Saturday Night Live, he’ll join the illustrious Five-Timers Club, a swanky association of hosting all-stars that includes Alec Baldwin, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, and Drew Barrymore (she first hosted when she was just seven, remember that?). While it’s not shocking that Johnson is bound for such an honor, it is surprising how quickly the action star has gone from SNL newbie to slam-dunk host – he first hosted the show in 2000, back when he was still known simply as “The Rock” – building up his own repertoire of recurring characters along the way.
When it comes to SNL, it’s easy to smell what The Rock is cooking: it’s an excellent show.
For his fourth outing, Johnson employed his biggest weapons, including high voltage charm, an endearing ability to poke fun at himself, and an almost inhuman capacity for holding character. Oh, and his arms, chest, and lower regions. Those were also very present this time around (much to the pleasure of Kate McKinnon and some particularly jovial members of the audience). When an SNL host is good – really good – it’s easy to muse that they should just join the cast, but every time Johnson turns up to shepherd a show, it’s impossible to not dream of a world where he’s a regular cast member. After all, they don’t call him “franchise Viagra” for nothing.
“The Rock Obama Cold Open”
The Rock Obama is one of Johnson’s mainstays whenever he hosts the show – and, sometimes, when other people host it, too! – making an appearance by his glorious mash-up of President Obama and The Hulk feel all but guaranteed. Kudos to the SNL team for giving the people what they wanted right off the bat, opening up the show with a host-led sketch (a relative rarity) that didn’t pull any punches when it came to deflating some current political issues (something the show has struggled with over recent seasons, and finally seems ready to address).
As ever, The Rock Obama is very mad, this time about Israel and a pack of disruptive Republican congressmen – including Taran Killam as a terrified, yet somehow not orange enough John Boehner – and he’s not going to take it anymore. Johnson has long managed to make this sketch feel equal parts timely and funny, and his ability to sound like both Obama and the actual Hulk while ripping other cast members limb from limb is perhaps the greatest argument yet that the man deserves an Emmy.
Still, this recurring sketch was pumped up by something by something unexpected: the introduction of Leslie Jones as “She-Rock Obama,” as our own First Lady suddenly goes from mild-mannered and calm (and played by Sasheer Zamata) to pissed enough to rip open a tasteful shift dress. Talk about a power couple.
“New Disney Movie”
If there was a running theme to last night’s show, it was “Dwayne Johnson is entertaining and will make any kind of entertainment offering you possibly have available better just by walking around in the background or something” (hey, we don’t make these themes, we just report them). Put in sassier, snazzier terms, he really is franchise Viagra, and although Johnson addressed that handy nickname/career designation during the show’s jazzy monologue, putting it into literal action proved to be the far funnier choice.
Riffing on both Disney’s love for turning their classic animated tales into live-action outings (from Maleficent to Cinderella and now, somehow, Dumbo), SNL imagines what a new spin on Bambi would look like, starring Johnson and his Fast and Furious brethren. Bolstered by the appearance of a muttering, perhaps catatonic Taran Killam as Vin Diesel as Thumper, and Jay Pharoah pulling double duty as both a constantly screaming Tyrese-Gibson-as-Flower and forest-trilling Ludacris (the song is called “Wham, Bam, Bambi,” and you love it now), it was easily the best sketch of the night. (It’s also not hard to imagine that there’s at least one executive over at Disney that watched this sketch and couldn’t help but think, hey, this isn’t half bad…).
Thanks to this season’s choppy filming schedule, Saturday Night Live almost missed out on commenting on HBO’s latest game-changing offering, the documentary series The Jinx, which allowed regular people to confidently announce, “that guy is a murderer!” while watching from the safety of their own home. Although the framework of this sketch isn’t the best – it’s always nice to see comedians skewer the mechanics of improv, but there’s got to be a better way to approach this material – it’s all just window-dressing for the main event: Kate McKinnon as accused murderer Robert Durst.
McKinnon is currently the most skilled impersonator on the show (sorry, Jay Pharoah’s Kanye, sorry, Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus, but let’s just be honest here), and although her newly minted Hillary Clinton turn could use some shine, her work as Durst is so spot-on as to be actually kind of terrifying. From the dead stare to the prolonged blinking to the slouchy posture, McKinnon killed this one (of course).