Friday October 8, 1999

     The funniest moment on the recent "Saturday Night Live" anniversary show belonged to comedian Chris Rock. Wow, he said, 25 years. Four of 'em funny. He then made the nervy if not particularly novel observation that "SNL" alumni had been responsible for some of the worst movies ever made.
     Chalk up another. "Superstar," in which "SNL" regular Molly Shannon brings her love-hungry Catholic schoolgirl Mary Katherine Gallagher to the big screen, pining for one big kiss, will have you pining for another Butabi Brothers movie. As "SNL" and "Superstar" producer Lorne Michaels certainly knows, and certainly doesn't care, making a feature-length film out of the kind of TV sketch that overstays its welcome at five minutes requires a lot of filler. If "Superstar" were meatloaf--and that would be an improvement--the recipe would be 4 pounds bread crumbs to 3 ounces sirloin. Make that chuck.
     It's tough to get too indignant about the Mary Katherine character, in her too-short plaid skirt, unflattering glasses and impossible dreams, because she lacks the aggressive imbecility of, let's say, the late Chris Farley, or Adam Sandler in some of his more profitable moments. But she's equally dishonest, since her purpose is to provoke both derision and pity for a character too pathetic to live, but who ultimately triumphs because . . . well, because it's her movie.
     Directed by former Kid in the Hall Bruce McCulloch, "Superstar" has a few funny moments--the offhanded comments of Mary Katherine's crush, high school hero Sky Corrigan ("SNL's" Will Ferrell), are often hilarious, though largely inaudible. A sequence in which Mary Katherine and her special-ed classmate Helen (Emmy Laybourne) fantasize a supermodel documentary is also a lot smarter than the rest of the movie, which chronicles Mary Katherine's pursuit of that Hollywood-style kiss, her audition for the talent show and her excruciating abuse at the hands of the vapid but beautiful Evian (Elaine Hendrix) and her cohorts Summer and Autum (Karyn Dwyer, Natalie Radford).
     Glynis Johns is Gallagher's grandmother, proving, once again, that the only time an actress older than 60 gets into one of these movies is so she can say the f-word and drive the audience into a frenzy. Do popcorn counters sell hemlock? They should think about it.


Superstar, 1999. PG-13, for sex-related humor and language. Paramount Pictures presents, in association with SNL Studios, a Lorne Michaels production. Director Bruce McCulloch. Producer Lorne Michaels. Executive producers Robert K. Weiss, Susan Cavan. Screenplay by Steven Wayne Koren, based on a character created by Molly Shannon. Cinematographer Walt Lloyd. Editor Malcolm Campbell. Costume designer Eydi Caines-Floyd. Music composed by Michael Gore. Production designer Gregory Keen. Art director Peter Grundy. Set decorator Doug McCullough. Running time: 1 hours, 22 minutes. Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher. Will Ferrell as Sky. Elaine Hendrix as Evian. Harland Williams as Slater. Mark McKinney as Father Ritley. Glynis Johns as Grandma.