Superstar has just become available on Netflix Watch Instantly. If you have never seen it, please, do yourself the favor of watching one of the most hilarious films in the Saturday Night Live canon. Molly Shannon is at her comic best channeling the spirit of 16-year-old catholic schoolgirl Mary Catherine Gallagher – one of the most memorable characters from her six seasons on SNL.
Will Ferrell co-stars as Sky Corrigan, the coolest guy in school and Mary’s crush. Of course Sky is an amazing dancer and Ferrell’s goofball sincerity is charming as usual as he pantomimes through a diversity of dance moves throughout the film. He also shows up as God. Ferrell and Shannon came into SNL together, in the mid-90’s resurgence, and their pairings are some of my favorites.
The film is also full of more subtle comedic moments which come from the periphery characters created by a solid ensemble of talented players: Kids in the Hall alum Mark McKinney as Father Ritley, Mary’s exasperated headmaster, the magical Glynis Johns as Mary’s Grandmother and another SNL alum, Harlan Williams, cameos as a dark and mysterious stranger. My favorite is Emmy Laybourne as Mary’s overzealous best friend, Helen.
Of course I love this movie because it’s really a teen film – a unique and hilarious teen film. Superstar is a romp through the perils of adolescence with enough camp to make it ridiculous but not unbelievable. Like most young girls in America, Mary dreams of being a “Superstar!” (You know the move). She is exploring her identity and bursting to express herself but does so in awkward and clumsy ways. Her Grandmother has stifled her dreams by forbidding her to perform and insisting she become a businesswomen. At school she is bullied and tormented by mean cheerleaders (Elaine Hendrix is vicious as the queen bee, Evian). Pretty typical adolescence.
But, like many of Shannon’s other characters, Mary prevails. She is a woman who knows what she wants. She holds her own and stands up for herself. She remains true to herself. She continues to fight for her dream. And it’s all pretty freaking funny.