Coneheads: Comedy Starring SNL Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin

Among other distinctions, the landmark comedy program, Saturday Night Live (SNL), has provided a steady flow of comic talent to the big screen. Fans of the show, which is still running strong, make fine distinctions among the various comedians who came out of this show. They are quick to point out that Dan Aykroyd was an original member, or that Eddie Murphy belongs to a younger generation.

Two new comedies, Coneheads and So I Married An Axe Murderer, feature skillful comedians who began their careers or made their mark on SNL.

Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin, stars of Coneheads, are older than Mike Myers, the dominant spirit of Axe Murderer. The two movies display different comic sensibilities and different humor, which are attributable to the talents of their respective performers–and their generation too.

Debuting in 1976, there have been a dozen or so “Conehead” sketches on the popular show. Aykroyd and the writing team of Bonnie and Terry Turner have now expanded these sketches to a feature-length movie. For those unfamiliar with the sketch: Aykroyd plays Beldar, devoted husband of Jane Curtin’s Prymaat and good father of Connie (Michelle Burke), their teenage daughter. While Aykroyd makes a decent living at his Meepzor Precision Discount Driving School, Curtin spends her time at the supermarket, the heaven of suburban consumerism. They walk and talk like robots–everything about their life is programmed, computerized.

There is one weak section in the middle of the picture, when the family is called back to their planet, Remulak, to answer to its superiors. But fortunately, the movie regains its humor and stamina once the Coneheads return to Earth and settle back into their bliss.

The problem with Coneheads is that it’s basically a one-joke movie stretched to the limit with numerous mutations and reverberations. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t have enough material; after a while the recycled quips and pranks become redundant, which is always dangerous for a boisterous comedy. Moreover, as a satire of mainstream America and bland suburbanism, the jokes have lost their bite.

If the movie still manages to be funny in moments, it’s totally due to the colorful gallery of performers. Laraine Newman, who originated Connie on TV, has a cameo role, alongside with Phil Hartman, David Spade, and others. One of my favorite moments is when the dentist, played by Jon Levitz, caps Beldar’s rows and rows of teeth!

You can sense that Aykroyd and Curtin have worked together for a long time–they are always in sync with each other, moving and talking in exactly the same way. I was afraid that in their effort to be funny and campy, they would act all over the place, perhaps even chew the scenery. But miraculously, the couple (and the entire cast) play their roles straight, with endearing innocence.