It seemed as though Saturday Night Live was determined to up the energy-quotient this week, perhaps under the impression that if everyone looked as though he or she was working really hard, we might not notice that the work wasn’t all that amusing.

In his opening moments, host Joseph Gordon-Levitt tried to reproduce the “Make ‘Em Laugh” scene from the musical Singin’ in the Rain. Can’t fault J G-L for not having a great singing voice, and he applied some heroic effort to do Donald O’Connor’s walking-up-walls choreography. Gordon-Levitt pulled it off, although in the process making what O’Connor did with deceptive ease look like huffing, puffing hard work.

Don’t tell me: you thought it was great, right? Let’s agree to disagree. Gordon-Levitt’s exertion was what wrung applause from the SNL audience, which is the exact opposite of what movie audiences admired about O’Connor: The idea is to make climbing walls and doing back-flips look effortless. I give G-L an “A” for effort, but instead of making a snide joke about how Singin’ In The Rain is a movie “your grandmother” watches, SNL‘s writers should have tried to understand the source-material first.

The “Digital Short” featured Samberg as a hiphop artist collaborating with Reba McEntire — or rather, Kenan Thompson playing a guy who’d found a red wig and had supposedly fooled Samberg into thinking he was Reba. All set to music. If only this convoluted notion had resulted in some sort of funniness about hiphop or country music or something. It was well-shot and choreographed, but again: lots of effort, few moments of mirth.

There was a “What Up With That” sketch, which you may recall from a few weeks ago, starring Kenan Thompson as a singing talk-show host who never lets his guests speak much, if at all. In this new one, Al Gore and The Office‘s Mindy Kaling were among the nonplussed guests. Thompson sang and danced up a storm, to much boisterousness and little effect.

“Weekend Update” had quite a few funny jokes, and Al Gore returned with an admirable poker-face to poke fun at his own usual “renewable energy” spiel:

Musical guest the Dave Matthews Band sounded just like the Dave Matthews Band always does. Matthews also did a good Ozzy Osbourne impersonation in a sketch.

And in a shocking breach of tradition, it was the final sketch of the night that was the best one all evening: Gordon-Levitt spoofing Say Anything. Jason Sudeikis was superb as a guy needling J G-L’s John Cusack.

So what’d you think? There’s no denying Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the most energetic host in a while, but did you actually laugh more than I did? Please sound off below.

(You can read my review of SNL’s current season in the new issue of EW.)

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