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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Jeremy Renner”

NBC

Jeremy Renner‘s having a great year with ‘The Avengers‘ and ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ but did he have a great night on television hosting ‘SNL‘?

Booknotes

The cold open features Cecily Strong as Paula Broadwell, who was recently discovered to have had an affair with General David Petraeus while writing his biography. ‘SNL’ really takes advantage of the now-hilarious title “All In” by having Strong read off some rather salacious passages as if this were the political world’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ It’s a little flat, but once she gets to the threesome stuff and audience members start leaving, it picks up from there.

Monologue

Wow, that Jeremy Renner is a charmer, right?! While ‘SNL’ has definitely been tapping the “look, this actor can also┬ásing!” well a bit too often lately, Renner has a great voice, and the songs he “wrote” for his movies are really cute, especially the ‘Bourne Legacy’/Kings of Leon stuff. But what really works for Renner here is the way he reacts when the sound from the piano hasn’t been turned on yet, and he handles the awkward moment incredibly well. He’s like, effortlessly appealing, and even more so when he makes it clear that he feels silly singing these songs.

Visit Your Childhood Home

A faux commercial selling your childhood home as a high-class hotel, and as has been proven more often lately, the details are what really sell the humor here, like smoking pot in the hot tub of that one guy you know from high school and your parents putting exercise and office equipment in your old room. Taran Killam really nails it with his subtle facial reactions, though.

The Californians

I miss Kristen Wiig. That’s really the only thing to take away from The Californians anymore. Bill Hader and Fred Armisen are still giving it their all, but this whole driving directions joke wore out its welcome long ago. Jeremy Renner plays a lawyer who tells Stewart about his illegitimate kid and he does fine, but feels really shoehorned into the sketch and awkward. Hader is usually the one to crack, but this week Armisen loses it several times and it’s really the only amusing part of the whole thing. A lame sketch can often be saved if the actors are having fun and cracking up, and at least someone is getting some laughs out of this.

The Situation Room

Jason Sudeikis is Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room, and he’s covering — what else — the Petraeus scandal. Cecily Strong plays socialite Jill Kelley this time around, spending the entire sketch walking to and from her car. Bobby Moynihan is a reporter and Jeremy Renner is the mayor of Tampa, “Derek ‘Fat Deuce’ Derek,” a guy with a proclivity for fedoras and a lip ring. When Renner shows up the sketch really gets nutty for the best — his ignorant ghetto mayor interacting with the uptight Blitzer while Tim Robinson plays Jill Kelley in a dramatization of the walking to the car footage is just a perfect concoction of humor, capped off with Blitzer’s realization that Derek is the self-proclaimed mayor of Tampa.

The Stand Off

Renner, Killam, and Moynihan are involved in a gun stand-off in this pre-recorded riff on action dramas. The desire of ‘SNL’ to keep the Lonely Island humor alive is transparent, but damn if this didn’t make me laugh. The guys are all stuck holding guns at each other, awkwardly taking them to tuck in Renner’s daughter for bed, sleep together, shower together, and even hold their guns at each other’s faces at Thanksgiving dinner. Maroon 5′s Adam Levine pops in to briefly join the stand-off, too. Is Taran Killam the new Andy Samberg? Between this sketch and last week’s “Mokiki Does the Sloppy Swish,” it sure seems like that’s who they’re running to for wacky shorts.

Weekend Update

More of the Petraeus scandal, and am I the only one bored by it? Seth Meyers takes us through a round of Winners and Losers in the scandal before getting back to non-sex-scandal — and much funnier! — news. Jay Pharaoh stops by as Katt Williams to defend himself against the recent gun attack allegations. Williams is a really obscure target, but Pharaoh does a bonkers-great impression. The real Chris Christie stops by to talk about the Hurricane Sandy clean-up efforts and he is DELIGHTFUL with all his talk of fleece.

The Avengers

Jay Pharaoh is Nick Fury, assembling the Avengers, including Taran Killam as Captain America, Jason Sudeikis as Iron Man, Bill Hader as Thor, Kate McKinnon as Black Widow, Bobby Moynihan as a terrifying Hulk, and Jeremy Renner as the boring and very human, non-super-powered Hawkeye — obviously. Hader’s Thor and Moynihan’s Hulk are definite highlights, and for once I’m not into whatever it is McKinnon is doing here, with her big joke being that Black Widow is pretty and useless as a superhero, which is a total crock. But the sketch does address the biggest question of ‘The Avengers’: Hawkeye runs out of arrows, right? And then what?

Thug #2

Renner is filming his latest movie with Bill Hader as director and Jason Sudeikis plays Dick Juice, an actor who’s playing “Thug #2″ in the movie. This sketch, to put it kindly, is my not-favorite. Renner doesn’t get to really flex his muscles and just plays himself here, and Sudeikis’ character is grating in the most non-funny way possible.

Midnight Snack

Animation has returned to ‘SNL’! And remember when I said ‘SNL’ was really trying to keep that Lonely Island thing going? Double that here with this animated short, which seeks to emulate the days of Robert Smigel’s animated shorts while keeping the more modernized humor of Lonely Island and stuff like the Adult Swim line-up. Specifically, the animation reminds me a lot of Brad Neely’s work, minus the really irreverent and absurd humor. It’s just not as weird as they probably think it is, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have potential. It also makes me think about the recent piece at the AV Club on why ‘SNL’ needs to take the “Live” out sometimes and have all these shorts — in that piece, Erik Adams says that the show will likely hire talent that was raised on Lonely Island and similar internet-friendly humor, but I don’t think they’re there quite yet. If you want to play dress-up and pretend this is Adult Swim, go for it, but the problem is that ‘SNL’s writers are not the same breed, resulting in a watered-down version of what they were hoping to achieve. I think ‘SNL’ is capable of subversive, weird, and utterly absurdist humor, but this animated short is just trying way too hard to reach that demographic.

Identifying the Body

Hader is a medical examiner and Sudeikis is a detective in this sketch, where Renner is asked to identify his brother’s body and he’s really, really bad at it, first claiming the body to be Steven Tyler, then basketball player Yao Ming, and then saying it’s Sudeikis, and eventually saying it’s Morris Day and at least a couple of guys from the Time. Hader and Renner are great as two total dummies, and Hader helps massage the sketch a bit by drumming and tugging on the faux-dead Taran Killam.

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