SNL Ranked: Reese Witherspoon Doesn’t Disappoint, But This Episode Sure Does
Reese Witherspoon has had an interesting time lately: the producer of Gone Girl, nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Wild, and the recent star of the not-so-funny Hot Pursuit. But Witherspoon is funny — she’s also immensely charming and versatile (obviously), and she knows how to light up a room. Unfortunately, she’s not really the star of this week’s SNL, suffering from the same fate that befell Scarlett Johansson in last week’s underwhelming episode. Throughout the bulk of the episode, Witherspoon is more like a supporting player than the star, and I’m growing concerned about how terrible these female-hosted episodes have been lately and what that says about SNL in general.
Anyway! Read on for your weekly SNL sketch rankings.
Mr. Westerberg (Witherspoon, Ensemble)
SNL isn’t the only show to approach this subject matter recently — Veep also has a male-on-male sexual harassment plot right now. Both manage to avoid crossing that line into offensive territory, which isn’t easy. But there’s something sort of inherently funny about it; not because Bennett’s character is being harassed by his boss, and not necessarily because we don’t think of men as victims in sexual harassment scenarios — but because men themselves don’t assume this could happen to them. Like Jonah on Veep, Bennett’s character here is convincing himself and everyone else that what’s happening to him is normal.
(I also have this hope that when Killam eventually leaves, Bennett will become the next SNL MVP.)
High School Theatre Show (Witherspoon, Killam, Bryant, Mooney, Moynihan, Jones, McKinnon, Bennett, Strong)
I am so glad they brought back the high school theatre show — it is remarkably identical to a real high school experimental theatre performance. The kids think they’re so smart and observant and subversive (they are none of those things).
Mother’s Day Apologies Monologue (Witherspoon, Ensemble)
This is such an adorable monologue concept — each cast member comes out with their mother to apologize for something bad they did when they were growing up. There are some particularly funny apologies here from Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Bobby Moynihan, Pete Davidson, and Kyle Mooney. This isn’t really Reese Witherspoon’s monologue as much as it belongs to the entire cast, and the home videos of them as children are so hilarious and so, so cute. I also love the cheers from the audience when they show Thompson in a clip from Mighty Ducks because apparently this is the best record of his childhood.
Whiskers R We With Reese Witherspoon (McKinnon, Witherspoon)
I have a soft spot for these sketches, mainly because of the bad puns and the inappropriate and weird lines (“his greatest discovery? His own butthole”). Again, Witherspoon isn’t the star as much as she is the accessory for McKinnon. Also, I would adopt Mufasa.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, Jones, Thompson)
Leslie Jones’ relationship expert is the absolute best. And this week’s bit is so relatable — how many of us (women and men, sure) spend too much time with unworthy people only to spend even more time getting over them? Leslie’s letters to her ex and to herself are on point and hilariously honest. And her little moments with Jost punctuate the bit nicely with some great comedic pauses.
Capitalizing on their earlier chemistry in the L.A. Scene sketch, Witherspoon joins Strong for the Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party. And now there’s two of them! This might be the best thing Witherspoon was allowed to do all night.
Thompson’s Willie also puts in an appearance for the second time recently. He’s kind of the more cheerful male version of Debbie Downer, huh?
2016 Republicans Cold Open (Strong, Bennett, Thompson, Moynihan, McKinnon, Mooney, Killam)
I really hope Mike Huckabee gets the nomination, only so Beck Bennett’s guitar-playing bro-version of the politician is so funny — maybe even funnier than Bobby Moynihan’s Ted Cruz, but just barely funnier than Kyle Mooney’s Rand Paul. This is like Republican politicians auditioning for a Gone Wild taping at MTV Spring Break.
Water Slide (Bennett, Mooney, Moynihan, Zamata, Strong)
When there’s a Bennett and Mooney sketch, it’s typically one of my favorites (if not the only one), but Water Slide is a stilted sketch with awkwardly delivered dialogue and shabby rhythm. Bennett and Mooney work best together when collaborating on shorts, and that’s kind of a shame. Aside from her Weekend Update bit, this is the best Witherspoon was given all night.
L.A. Scene (Witherspoon, Strong, Thompson, Pharoah, Davidson, Mooney
Confession: I still have no idea what “on fleek” means, and I have no intention of learning because I’m pretty sure it’s already over. Witherspoon and Strong’s entitled wealthy housewives hosting their own TV show isn’t that funny, nor is Witherspoon’s bathroom mishap. But what is funny is Strong’s entire “Poise pads” conversation and Thompson and Pharoah’s reactions to, well, pretty much everything these crazy women do.
Picture Perfect (Killam, Bayer, Bennett, Strong, Moynihan, Witherspoon, Thompson)
Has Kenan Thompson ever played Reginald VelJohnson? It’s so simple and perfect. This sketch concept is very, very basic — two couples playing a Pictionary-like talk show game with celebrity help, and one team is asked to draw the prophet Muhammad, which…yeah, no. Moynihan and Thompson’s reactions are great, but everyone else just feels like set dressing.
Southern Ladies (Witherspoon, Strong, McKinnon, Jones, Bryant)
Sigh. I don’t know why these southern-flavored sketches just aren’t funny. They nail some of the details — the “oh, foot” thing, a Pella windows reference — and the specificity should make this sketch funnier, but it’s just…kind of flat. And Leslie Jones does not play southern lady well. Witherspoon does, but Witherspoon is southern. Her monologue isn’t the highlight of the sketch, though — that would be McKinnon talking about hitting on her son via Tinder.
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