Though its title may be synonymous with the best of American television, "Saturday Night Live" – the NBC sketch series celebrating four decades of laughs with a three-and-a-half-hour special airing Sunday February 15 at 8 p.m. – made the journey from living room to cinema on multiple occasions.
And while movie adaptations of "SNL" skits haven't matched the longevity (or often success) of their episodic network birthplace, film outings featuring characters created under the "Live From New York" umbrella were a regular occurrence in the 1980s and particularly through the 1990s.
Sure, for every hit such as "Blues Brothers" and "Wayne's World" there's a less-successful "Superstar" and "Wayne's World 2." But just as with the series, predicting how well a character resonates with audiences is a mixture of confidence in the starring actor and hope that the comedic content will keep viewers tuned in. The latter being especially important when what was once a four minute sketch is fleshed out to a 90-minute movie.
U.S. & World
Here, the big screen outings of "Saturday Night Live":
"The Blues Brothers" (1980)
Perhaps the best known of all the "SNL"-inspired movies, the story of two brothers "on a mission from God" – Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) Blues – grossed more than $110 million at the international box office. Beloved as much for its showcase of rhythm and blues classics performed by music legends such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, it also resonated with fans due to its sly, dark humor and slapstick scenarios including a car chase inside a Chicago shopping mall. And don't forget the deadpan chemistry between the two stars.
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The film's success spawned a sequel almost 20 years after the original debuted. "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998) saw Aykroyd back as Elwood and John Goodman stepping in for Belushi, who died in 1982. Like the original it contained numerous musical guest stars and crazy car chases. Unlike the original fans did not flock to theaters, resulting in domestic box office haul of only $14 million.
"Wayne's World" (1992)
Like "Blues Brothers," this movie based on the Mike Myers and Dana Carvey sketch about two metal-heads producing a public-access TV show in their Illinois basement is fondly remembered by both loyal "SNL" fans and international movie goers with little or no association to the source material. The big screen adventure sees Wayne Campbell (Myers) and Garth Algar (Carvey) struggling after a network producer plucks them from small-town, public-access obscurity. "Wayne's World" became a template of sorts for the "SNL" movies that would follow: expand upon the sketch that initially gained attention, reference it as often as possible, and include a passing parade of guest stars befitting the characters. 'Wayne's World" featured Rob Lowe, Lara Flynn Boyle, Tia Carrera, Ed O'Neill, and rockers Alice Cooper and Meat Loaf.
It went on to become the highest grossing film of all 11 movies based on "SNL" skits.
Rather than wait almost two decades to stage a sequel (see "Blues Brothers 2000" above), "Wayne's World 2" arrived in cinemas one year after the original. This time around a more successful Wayne and Garth are on a mission to stage a huge concert titled Waynestock. Perhaps there wasn't enough "Excellent!" moments, or too much "Party Time!" But its domestic box office gross was $48 million, far less than the original film's haul of over $120 million.
Original "SNL" players Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain reprised their roles from 1977 in this intergalactic farce about Beldar (Aykroyd), Prymaat (Curtain) and their offspring Connie, three alien travelers from the planet Remulak who become stranded on Earth. Regardless of their cone-shaped heads, the trio attempt to blend until their rescue ship arrives to take them home. Beldar gets work repairing appliances, Prymaat discovers she is pregnant (making their below-the-radar existence all the more essential) and Connie begins dating an earthling. Making only $21 million at the domestic box office, it was described by The New York Times as "suitable for people who found 'Wayne's World' too demanding."
"It's Pat: The Movie" (1994)
Cast member Julia Sweeney's androgynous, Western-shirt wearing Pat took the he/she guessing game to the big screen with a little help from guest stars including Kathy Griffin, fellow "SNL" alum Charles Rocket and "Kids In the Hall" comedian Dave Foley. The premise: discover Pat's gender at any cost. The result: a domestic box office take of only $60,000.
"Stuart Saves His Family" (1995)
A lesser known sketch turned into a feature-length outing, "Stuart Saves His Family" was directed by Harold Ramis ("Caddyshack," Groundhog Day") and written by lead actor Al Franken. As the titular self-help expert Stuart Smalley, Franken must rehabilitate his alcoholic father and drug using brother (Vincent D'Onofrio), give emotional support and relationship advice to his overweight mother (Shirley Knight) and sister (Lesley Boone), and beg his boss to allow him to return to his public-access TV show. All with the help of his 12-stepping sponsors. Though well-reviewed, Siskel & Ebert each gave it a "thumbs up" rating, Stuart could not save his namesake film at the domestic box office where it grossed $900,000.
"A Night at the Roxbury" (1998)
Based on the recurring "SNL" skit "The Roxbury Guys," dimwitted brothers Steve (Will Ferrell) and Doug (Chris Kattan) Butabi dream of owning their own dance club where they can bob their heads to the beat while trying to pick up women way out of their league. Failing that, they want access to the hottest club around: The Roxbury. The truncated sketch-show appeal of two creepy brothers hanging out in a nightclub proved hard to fashion into a feature length film, though it delivered on cover charges when it brought in more than $30 million at the domestic box office.
One year after "Roxbury" Will Ferrell was back on the big screen in another film that grew from an "SNL" sketch. "Superstar" centered around socially-inept Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher and her dreams of fame, fortune and a kiss from fellow student Sky Corrigon (Ferrell). Played with gusto by Molly Shannon, Gallagher believes her chance at stardom has arrived when the school announces a talent show.
"The Ladies Man" (2000)
Tim Meadows' smooth-talking radio host and sex therapy expert Leon Phelps finds himself out of a job when he finally goes too far during a broadcast. As Phelps, Meadows relies on his charm and the character's outsized ego, afro and wardrobe as he sets out to find a long lost love conquest while evading a pack of disgruntled husbands and boyfriends who are now single thanks to advice he dispensed. Meadow's big screen outing was suave enough to woo over $13 million at the domestic box office.
Featuring Will Forte as a MacGyver-like hero who seems to perpetually be in the process of disarming a ticking bomb, "MacGruber" placed a recurring "SNL" character in a parody of action movies and TV series from the '80s and '90s. Along for the ride are fellow "SNL" alums Kristen Wiig as MacGruber's love interest and Maya Rudolph as his dead wife. Also on board for this crude farce are Ryan as a member of MacGruber's team, Val Kilmer as villain Dieter von Cunth, and WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Mark Henry, Kane, MVP and The Great Khali. Under pressure at the international box office, MacGruber salvaged just over $9 million.