Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:22 - Released 10/8/99

When I saw the trailer for Superstar, I thought oh, no — another feature film-length version of a Saturday Night Live sketch, just like the abysmally insipid A Night At The Roxbury. I had perfectly good reason to feel this way, since Superstar was written by the same writer (Steve Koren), produced by the same producers (Lorne Michaels and SNL Studios), and stars practically the same people (SNL co-stars Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell). What's more, the character of Mary Katherine Gallagher (created by Shannon) is hard enough to watch for the obligatory 5 minutes of every SNL episode. But surprisingly, Superstar is much more enjoyable than the sketches on which it is based, and Shannon's performance is brimming with fun and energy. Perhaps Koren learned his lesson from the mistakes of Roxbury. Or perhaps it has something to do with the new director.

Directed by Bruce McCulloch (The Kids In The Hall), Superstar takes us through the life of Mary Katherine, a uniform-wearing Catholic schoolgirl who dreams of being kissed on the mouth. Her job as a video store rewind girl has allowed her to familiarize herself with all the classic movies, but her severe trouble interacting with other students, coupled with her predilection toward loud, messy accidents, prevents her from being taken seriously by her classmates. After being placed in the "special class," she is taunted even more by head cheerleader Evian (Elaine Hendrix), but makes new friends who are also social outcasts. Among them are Helen (Emmy Laybourne, in a hysterical debut performance), the friendly-but-overenthusiastic girl jock who grinds her braces-filled teeth with menacing vigor, and Slater (Harland Williams), the silent biker who is reputed to have committed some terrible crime.

But the boy whose kisses Mary Katherine craves isn't in the special class. He's Sky Corrigan (Ferrell), the most popular boy in school, the biggest football star and the best dancer, who just happens to be dating Evian. The only way Mary Katherine can hope to attract Sky's attention is to join the school's talent competition and thus become, in her own word, a "Superstar."

In keeping with the SNL sketches, this film contains plenty of pratfalls and panty shots, plenty of Catholic jokes, and plenty of Shannon's ultra-physical style. Her habit of expressing herself through famous movie monologues is used liberally. However, what seems to make the difference is the addition of some new material to Mary Katherine's fantasy world, like the hot dance numbers (becoming a popular element in comedies), and Ferrell's additional appearance as God. Since he is Mary's own perception of the almighty, he not only looks like Sky but has a decidedly hippy-dippy manner about him. Ferrell is an absolute scream as he floats above her, singing along with "Spirit In The Sky" and adding, "that song's about Me, you know."

Superstar isn't the best comedy of the year, but it is at least enjoyable, and, unlike Roxbury, seems as comfortable on the big screen as it is on SNL. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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