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'Live From New York!' review: 'Saturday Night Live' documentary more like an ad

Alec Baldwin from the

Alec Baldwin from the "Saturday Night Live" documentary "Live From New York!" Photo Credit: Live From New York!

It says something that Kate McKinnon, one of the funniest regulars on "Saturday Night Live," is nowhere to be found in "Live From New York!" director Bao Nguyen's documentary-cum-genuflection on the show's last 40 years. It also says something that the long list of "SNL"-inspired movies -- which have usually suggested the word "eyesore" -- goes entirely unmentioned. And where the heck is Joe Piscopo?

"Live" does address the show's eternal problem with women, more specifically black women. But instead of giving us much of anything else either in-depth or revealing, the movie gets a bit wiggy about just how significant the show has been. It credits/blames "SNL" -- rather than the Supreme Court -- for George W. Bush's 2000 presidential victory (Darrell Hammond's Al Gore impersonation, we're told, having given Bush the edge). The only reason New York was able to come back from 9/11 apparently was the return of "SNL" to the air with guest Rudy Giuliani, who is in the movie far too much. And even though he mispronounces Gilda Radner's last name, Bill O'Reilly shows up to tell us why the NBC skit show matters, and why we should still care.

Do we? Should we? Oddly, director Nguyen and company construct what is essentially a protracted advertisement for a tired program and format, while presuming that no one knows anything about it. The film sells the show's cultural importance, without addressing the idea that it's frequently dreadful. And it emphasizes the program's current-events cred without noting that its glory days as political satire were all about a topical outrageousness to which its audience has become largely numb.

Perhaps younger viewers really are completely unaware of "SNL" as a cultural landmark and now-occasional amusement. Older viewers will have seen the clips -- Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford, Tina Fey as Palin, John Belushi as the Samurai Dry Cleaner -- more times than they care to think about.


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