Dakota Johnson and Justin Timberlake Were 50 Shades of Unfunny on 'SNL'

January 27, 2024

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jan 28, 2024


Dakota Johnson's halting cadence created comedic tension in a slew of sketches that didn’t land so well (though most of the remotes, including one cut for time, were strong), while Justin Timberlake’s comeback was muted. Here’s everything that happened on Saturday Night Live this week.

The Cold Open

A CBS pre-game show featured male analysts lamenting the end of the NFL season after the AFC and NFC championship games are done with. This led to men being emo about just about everything going on in pop culture, and culminated in a ballad called “When There’s Football Again,” which kinda saved this uneven idea.

The Monologue

Dakota Johnson shared a photo of her appearance at the SNL 40th anniversary show nine years ago, where she’d sat in the audience with Taylor Swift and Donald Trump, and also featured a clip of her hamming it up as a child, as her dad, Don Johnson, addressed the press. She later mentioned The Social Network, which prompted Justin Timberlake to join her on stage, either playing up his smarminess or just being smarmy. Jimmy Fallon also hopped on stage in his Bee Gees getup to briefly bro down with Timberlake, his co-star in the old Barry Gibb Talk Show sketch, and then Johnson did this season’s requisite “It’s an honour to be on SNL” bit, and a slight monologue was over.

The Mason Family

Sarah Sherman played a waitress serving the Mason family, but refused to write their order down, which led to her reciting it back to them in complete gibberish. When Sherman bailed, Johnson appeared as the restaurant’s new manager, and exhibited similar issues. Yikes, this was quite terrible.

Home Video

In this remote, a young man played by Andrew Dismukes went through his older parents’ old video tapes with them and pressed play on one labeled “Big Announcement.” Traumatically, it featured his youthful parents on the Maury-like show called Corey, where mom and dad, played by Johnson and Mikey Day, had battled about who his father really was, in a trashy reveal of this promiscuousness. This was quite an ingenious concept that worked well (and proved to be the highlight of this episode).

The Barry Gibb Talk Show

Ugh, Jimmy Fallon and Timberlake played eccentric Gibb brothers, Robin and Barry, running a talk show. They alternated between singing questions and interview segues, with Fallon, as Barry, launching into strange tirades and Robin always deferring to contribute anything to the talk. This was irritating and barely anything. Even Timberlake sleepwalked through it, seemingly embarrassed to be involved.

please don’t destroy vs. Dakota

Johnson joined the boys in their office to diss and destroy them and their aesthetic, which led to a pointed insult exchange, which was no-holds-barred and led to at least one nepo-truce. Oh man, this roast was hysterical.

Big Dumb Cups

Johnson, Chloe Fineman, and Heidi Gardner played vapid, rich white women extolling the virtues of big dumb cups like the recently viral Stanley cups. Increasingly absurd, this deliberately dumb thing was okay.

Justin Timberlake

Housed in a wooden-walled set that resembled a church, Timberlake and an eight-piece band ran through the muddled “Sanctified,” which mashed up R&B pop, metal-rap breakdowns and (with an assist from Tobe Nwigwe) rap-infused gospel with dance choreography — just a lot going on her to be coherent.

Taking on his synthesized pop star persona, Timberlake took centre stage with only two musicians behind him for the tepid “Selfish,” which was a vocal showcase and, relative to the earlier performance, a much more focused yet dynamic song.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began with a run on the $83 million defamation judgement against Donald Trump, comparing his deep unlikeability to OJ Simpson's, who had to pay far less in his civil trial for double-murder. Michael Che talked about Trump and DeSantis making up a bit, while both anchors highlighted Nikki Haley's recent insults of Trump. Che joked that the CIA is as diplomatic as Draymond Green, before Jost highlighted the awkwardness for Oscar-nominated actresses who aren’t Lily Gladstone, tagged by Che, who made an Oscar joke about Godzilla.

Bowen Yang appeared as a guy named Ethan who’d started his own movie awards called the Ethans. This led to some amusing commentary about Asian actors and some very strange Awards categories, before Ethan himself was honoured.

Jost reported on a strange incident at Planet Fitness, and then a record-breaking swimming effort by a senior citizen. Heidi Gardner played tarot card reader, Jan Janby, and provided some harrowing readings for Che, his comedy career, and his love life, which, aided by some clever overhead camera work, was pretty funny.

Book Club

At a book club gathering, Johnson played a character who revealed she would be appearing on Shark Tank, to present a T-shirt with a slogan about crying on it. Though mocked by her friends, the shirt did seem to resonate with her friends, and even a couple of Shark Tank judges, Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, who made implausible cameos in this stilted, awkward sketch.

Delta Baggage Claim

Devon Walker shone in this amusing bit, playing a weird Delta airlines employee named Samson who was invasive and imposing. Johnson played Vanessa, a passenger trying to locate a missing bag, who was subject to a humiliating series of questions by Samson in front of a new love interest. Walker, and later Kenan Thompson as his mentor, made this worthwhile.

Huh, why was Dave Chappelle on stage for the goodnight?

Cut for time: Horny Little Dork


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