Sketch comedy thrives in the short format illustrated on shows such as In Living Color, Mad TV, and, of course, Saturday Night Live. The five minutes a skit runs is just enough time for a quick set-up and one punchline, maybe two if it is particularly well written. On the occasion a sketch runs out of steam before it is over, however irksome, it ultimately doesn’t matter, as it is bound to be over comparatively quickly. A movie based on a sketch, or utilizing the same kind of setup, doesn’t have the luxury of brevity and thus, needs to expand beyond the one joke and give its characters depth and nuance.
“…screams of a rejected skit idea…”
When a movie successfully does that, it becomes an iconic part of the pop culture landscape. The Blues Brothers was a massive success, earning over $100-million at the box office, and Wayne’s World made almost $200-million. Both of them are discussed today as comedy classics that captured the zeitgeist of their respective eras very well. Aside from Wayne’s World 2, the rest of the sketch comedies turned movies died on arrival. Films such as Pootie Tang or Strange Brew may have garnered cult status over the years, but failed to make a dent at the box office at the time of their release. Most audience members would probably like to forget the insipidness on display in Superstar or Stuart Saves His Family. That several fine folks reading this just scratched their heads trying to recall the Al Franken led ‘Stuart’ sketches, much less that there is a whole movie based on the character, just proves the point entirely. Both of those films take the one joke setup of a sketch and applies the same idea to a narrative feature. This haphazard storytelling fails to create memorable characters or an engaging plot. Also, yes, Office Space is technically based on an old SNL animated short, but it focuses on almost entirely new characters, including the lead, so that makes it a bit of an outlier.
Every movie just named was based on a pre-existing property, typically created to be a sketch. This does not mean movies conceived to be full-length features don’t fall prey to similar issues. Such is the case with the new comedy Sasq-Watch, also known as Nigel And Oscar Versus The Sasquatch. Sasq-Watch is about Nigel (Paul Brittain) and Oscar (Adam Herschman), two stupid brothers, out to prove Bigfoot’s existence. Are you laughing yet? It is just that one joke, stretched over 90 minutes, in which each character only has one defining trait, and the flimsy plot is merely an excuse to hammer in that single unfunny joke.
“…only a few scattered laughs…”
Star Paul Brittain was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for a few years, and his co-star Adam Herschman was on a show literally titled Sketchy. That everything about this production screams of a rejected skit idea isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that Drew Hall is the director. He has a few titles under his belt, all either horror, sci-fi, or both. Comedy is not his forte, as he fails to bring any energy to the proceedings, so each delivered gag lacks a visual punch to help set it up. Given how improv-heavy the dialogue feels, it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that screenwriter James Weldon only has this one movie credited to him.
Sporting a premise that isn’t as original as it thinks it is, nothing about Sasq-Watch is downright terrible, but it is sluggish and awkward, with only a few scattered laughs to be had.
Sasq-Watch (2017) Directed by Drew Hall. Written by James Weldon. Starring Paul Brittain, Adam Herschman, Christine Bently, Tim Meadows, Neil Flynn.