It’s been four years since anyone thought a Saturday Night Live sketch deserved a shot at full-length featuredom. Four sweet, blissful years, unburdened by thoughts of Bill Hader’s Stefon twitching his way through 90 minutes of disappointment.
But now that heavenly streak has been broken. Deadline reports that Universal has bestowed a grand “you know, this might not suck” to a Lonely Island movie. All three Islanders — Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer — will star in and produce the flick, with Taccone and Schaffer co-directing. Judd Apatow will also throw his weight behind the boys and also act as producer on the film, which will be “set in the world of music.” No word if that actually means a musical, but this is The Lonely Island, so we can stamp that with a definitive yeah, probably a musical.
Saturday Night Live should be patting itself on the back. The Lonely Island are, without a shadow of a doubt, the most humongous thing the show has birthed in a very long time. The cast right now? Weak sauce, at least while still staffed with a pack of newbies and Kenan Thompson (who will continue his run on SNL until death then be stuffed and propped up on set so that he can remain a cast member for centuries to come). Hitching its wagon to a Lonely Island film is the smartest thing SNL could do right now.
But the question must be asked: does a Lonely Island movie actually count among such venerable colleagues as The Ladies Man and A Night at the Roxbury? Technically, the comedy rappers got their start from SNL and spent the better part of six years writing, performing and gaining mainstream success under the protection of papa bear Lorne Michaels. If you were to have announced a Lonely Island flick three or four years ago, there’d be no question; Michael’s pawprints would be all over it.
But The Lonely Island departed the gentle embrace of Michaels and his sketch comedy empire years ago, and since then they’ve actually made it in the real world. Whether they decide to give any credit to the hand that first fed them remains to be seen — although frankly, that the Lonely Island movie was announced with Apatow’s name attached and not Michaels’s is probably a decent portent of the future.
Another thing separating a Lonely Island movie from the rest of the SNL film stable: the distinct possibility that it won’t suck hot garbage. This isn’t a half-decent sketch being artificially enhanced to last two hours. It’s a comedy band given two hours to tinker around. Think This Is Spinal Tap, not MacGruber. Even if MacGruber is, technically, kind of a Lonely Island flick, having been written and directed by Taccone and produced by Schaffer.
That’s the other big advantage here. These guys are as experienced behind the camera as they are in front, having directed countless digital shorts, plus MacGruber, plus The Watch (directed by Schaffer), plus Hot Rod (directed by Schaffer and starring Samberg and Taccone wth script rewrites by all three). Yes, some of you may count MacGruber and The Watch as points against The Lonely Island (perhaps using phrases like “sucked,” “not funny,” or in The Watch‘s case, “an abomination that has ruined me for future comedies”) but think of them instead as training-wheel films.
With Apatow as their spirit animal, the Lonely Island boys can take those training wheels off and finally nail a feature film as well as they have nailed songs about boat rides and gift-wrapping your privates. And if it doesn’t, we’ll just count it as an SNL film, because everyone expects those to blow anyway.