'Saturday Night Live' recap: Anne Hathaway's eager self is far from 'Miserables'

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Leave it to Saturday Night Live to bring to the forefront this week one of the most divisive issues facing our country: Americans’ complicated feelings for Anne Hathaway. For all the people who enjoy her work, there are just as many who feel like Anne Hathaway the person tries a little too hard and can be a little too grating.

For those who aren’t typically impressed, your opinion might have changed last night, when Hathaway hosted Saturday Night Live for the third time. The always-game actress clearly gave it her all, and the material, while not exactly hilarious, was more consistent than we’ve seen in previous weeks. An eager Hathaway (who appeared in every sketch) brought charm and energy to the first episode after the election.

How ’bout that election? With the political event SNL has been building to occurring this week, I’m sure many hoped for a cold open with more bite than what we got: A SadBot Mitt Romney standing on a balcony, chugging milk, joined by a parade of visitors. There were a couple of good one-liners: “Paul Ryan is doing feats of strength in the drawing room. She thought you’d like to see….I’d like to see him carry Wisconsin!” and “Donald Trump is doing a very amusing thing where he’s racist.” But the end note – that Ann and Mitt Romney were in love and would be fine — seemed a weird tone for the late-night program to strike. Not that I minded seeing Kate McKinnon’s Ann Romney one last time. This was also presumably the last time we’ll see Jason Sudeikis’ Romney (and Jason’s days may be numbered as well?) Fare thee well, Mitt.

Hathaway doing a musical monologue was all but a sure thing (she’s promoting Les Misérables, after all!) My great hope for the show was that we would get a Les Miz parody, and while we didn’t get a straight parody of  Javert, Eponine, and all the rest, we did get a pretty amusing “One Day More” cover, complete with the whole cast – and a great Stefon line by Hathaway. “Monologues with entire cast singing are f—ing awesome,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt declared on Twitter. Most awesome of all may have been how unexpectedly strong Hathaway’s voice was – I honestly could spend the rest of this recap just gushing about how excited I am for Les Misérables.

In place of more Les Miz, the first sketch after the monologue was new bit “Girlfriends Talk Show,” with Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant as two friends who host a gabfest. When Hathaway – doing a great deadpan teen speak accent – got in on the fun, things took a turn for the Mean Girls. The writing was kind of one-note, but the performances from all three — and especially Bryant’s excellent timing — made me chuckle. Better yet, this could become a fresh recurring bit, something the show desperately needs right now.

Next up was a digital short that probably made viewers nostalgic for Andy Samberg. In “Mokiki: The Legend of the Sloppy Swish,” Killam got everyone doing a new, weird dance move – it’s literally contagious! I can’t imagine where they got the idea of a dumb dance sweeping the nation. “It’s a really stupid dance created by a crazy person,” Kenan Thompson declared. The worst part is that I think I’m highly susceptible to silly new dances: I woke up this morning humming the tune. I hope you don’t suffer the same fate:

We all learned something very important last night: The SNL writing staff is obsessed with Homeland. After a call-out last week, we now have a full parody of the Showtime hit. From Claire Danes Crying Face – an over-the-top high point for Hathaway – to Brody’s (Taran Killam) small mouth, it was all there. I’m curious how well the sketch played all over the country – Homeland may be buzzy and have won the Emmy this year, but you have to wonder how much of the SNL audience has seen it. I’m not sure the sketch was all that funny unless you had a working knowledge of what they were parodying.

There were two serious clunkers last night: A McDonalds sketch that had Bobby Moynihan and Strong insulting all of their co-workers, and a later-in-the-show sketch about “American Gothic” that featured Hathaway and Sudeikis as the couple in the picture. All four performers seemed to be trying their best, but for me, the jokes didn’t land. I couldn’t believe we got these sketches instead of some kind of Dark Knight Rises parody (Seriously? Not even one Catwoman joke?) or Rihanna appearing in a sketch, as she did during previous appearances.

Rihanna may not have returned to Shy Ronnie (Even without Samberg, I was hopeful!), but she certainly made an impression with her first musical performance of the night. She sang her new single “Diamonds,” but what everyone is going to be talking about isn’t her voice, but her stage background. She had some kind of screensaver/paint explosion going on all around her. It seemed like a YouTube video you make with friends when you’re just learning how to use the effects on your computer. That said, I couldn’t take my eyes away.

Weekend Update was pretty standard last night. Surprisingly, there was only one joke about Gen. Petraeus, and very little about the election itself, save for a drop-by from Jay Pharoah’s now-extremely-smug President Obama. There was Drunk Uncle being drunk (“Red state! Blue state! You know what state I’m in? Denial.”) and “A Gay Couple From Maine.” Sadly no Stefon, from either Bill Hader or Hathaway. Missed opportunity.

A random but spot-on Ellen show spoof appeared later in the program, and was a particularly strong after-Update bit. McKinnon nailed Ellen DeGeneres’ voice and moves, and while what they were satirizing is old news – middle-aged ladies love them some Ellen! Sophia Grace and Rosie are probably being kind of exploited! – it was fun. The best part was Anne Hathaway as guest Katie Holmes. Hathaway has done great impressions before, and her Holmes – complete with the talking out the side of the mouth and sometimes-skittish look — was another standout. Sadly, the sketch isn’t yet posted online.

What did you all think? Was Hathaway’s third time as host a charm? Surprised there wasn’t more musical stuff? Want to marathon some Homeland? Secretly love the “Mokiki” short? Most pressing: Who did Hathaway wake up to an angry voicemail from — Holmes or Danes? (Probably neither: In her closing remarks, she thanked them both with a big grin).

Read more:
Louis C.K.’s ‘Lincoln’ skit gets a director’s cut — VIDEO
This week’s ‘SNL’ brought to you by Anne Hathaway’s hair — VIDEO
‘Saturday Night Live’ recap: Louis C.K. is best when he’s just being Louis

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