Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary [1999]

Like many of the clips that make up the bulk of its content, the Saturday Night Live 25th Anniversary special suffers from that malady specific to almost every SNL sketch: it starts out brilliantly, loses steam about halfway through, then slowly but gamely limps to the finish line with occasional spurts of humor. This special (which actually marks the show's 24th anniversary, but never you mind about those small details!) gathered almost all of the Saturday Night Live alumni--well, the funny ones, anyway--for a celebration of the show's entrenchment in the cultural landscape. It's basically an occasion to show a lot of clips, ranging in time from the Coneheads to Mary Katherine Gallagher, put together in a sprightly, rapid-pace manner and interspersed with occasional live audience-interaction bits. An hysterically funny Bill Murray kicks things off as a lounge singer at an Indian reservation casino who hobnobs with the celebrity audience members; Tom Hanks, a fave guest host, offers up a lively Q&A session (with a dryly funny Christopher Walken, among others); and Billy Crystal revives his Fernando persona to great effect. Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, and Steve Martin provide the best cast tribute, warmly remembering John Belushi while wryly offering up memorabilia for online auction, and Jan Hooks introduces a heartfelt short film featuring her and the late Phil Hartman. Other cast members, with the notable absence of Eddie Murphy and the surprise appearance of Norm MacDonald, pop up for various intros of clips--some are funny (Dennis Miller), some are not (Adam Sandler), some are obviously uncomfortable (David Spade), but at about the halfway mark it all starts to wear on you, like most tribute shows. Still, the stable of classic skits (including a surprisingly strong showing from the current cast) make this worth sticking around for. And at least this time, unlike during the live broadcasts, you can fast-forward through the unfunny parts. --Mark Englehart

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