Anna Kendrick’s first time hosting Saturday Night Live was an exercise in pitch-perfect execution. After last week’s surreal Louis C.K. show, Kendrick’s episode was more conventional but no less impressive, largely due to the host’s versatility and pure talent: her blend of controlled professionalism and infectious energy rarely falls flat and redeems even mediocre material. She kicked off the evening with a sing-song monologue to the tune of Beauty and the Beast’s “Belle” that may be one of the better musical openings in SNL history.
The Disney theme continued all night: Kendrick later played the comical part of a more contemporary Ariel, one whose music tastes are less amenable to “Under the Sea” and more suited to Kesha’s talky rap and Britney’s breathless vocal delivery.
Kendrick’s star has been on the rise lately. She’s drawn raves for her work on mumblecore pioneer Joe Swanberg’s past two features, Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas, and soon she’ll be returning to her Broadway (and Disney) roots—she’s been cast as Cinderella in the forthcoming adaptation of Into the Woods.