Superstar (1999 film)

Superstar is a 1999 American comedy film and a Saturday Night Live spin-off about a quirky, socially inept girl named Mary Katherine Gallagher.[3] The character was created by SNL star Molly Shannon and appeared as a recurring character on SNL in numerous skits.[3] The story follows Mary Katherine trying to find her place in her Roman Catholic private school. The movie is directed by former Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch. It stars Molly Shannon, Will Ferrell, Harland Williams, and Elaine Hendrix. SNL and Kids in the Hall alum Mark McKinney, who appeared in many of the Mary Katherine Gallagher SNL skits on TV, also has a minor role as a priest. Molly Shannon received a nomination for Blockbuster Entertainment Award "Favorite Actress - Comedy" but lost out to Heather Graham in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byBruce McCulloch
Written bySteve Koren
Based onMary Katherine Gallagher
by Molly Shannon
Produced byLorne Michaels
CinematographyWalt Lloyd
Edited byMalcolm Campbell
Music byMichael Gore
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 8, 1999 (1999-10-08)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$14 million[1]
Box office$30.6 million[2]


As a child, Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon) rescues a boy with a distinctive birthmark at the public pool. An orphan, she lives with her grandmother (Glynis Johns), and becomes obsessed with achieving “superstardom” and having her first kiss.

At St. Monica’s Catholic high school, Mary dreams of kissing Sky Corrigan (Will Ferrell), the most popular boy in school, but her awkwardness brands her a social outcast. Caught kissing a tree, she is placed in special education, where she befriends Helen Lewengrub (Emmy Laybourne), and new “bad boy” student Eric Slater (Harland Williams) takes an interest in her.

A school talent show is announced with the chance to win a trip to Hollywood and be a movie extra. Mary’s grandmother forbids her from participating, but Helen urges her to audition anyway, as does a vision of Jesus (also Will Ferrell). When she tries to sign up, Mary finds herself in an altercation with head cheerleader Evian Graham (Elaine Hendrix), Sky’s girlfriend. Mary’s grandmother reveals the true reason she will not let Mary perform – Mary’s parents were stomped to death during an Irish stepdance competition.

Having witnessed the fight with Mary, Sky breaks up with Evian, who swears revenge on Mary. Auditioning for the talent show, Mary performs an impassioned rendition of “Sometimes When We Touch”. Evian dumps a bucket of paint on her, inspired by Carrie; humiliated, Mary flees the school with Slater. He brings her to the pool, revealing that he was the boy she saved years ago, and they bond during an impromptu swim. Returning home, Mary finds her grandmother has been informed that Mary earned a place in the talent show. Finally allowing her to perform, Mary's grandmother coaches her and a chorus line of her special education classmates.

As the talent show begins, Evian apologizes to Mary, revealing she and Sky will be dancing together. Mary resolves to perform not to impress Sky, but for herself. In a last-minute confession, Mary relinquishes her dream of becoming a star, instead asking to survive the performance for her grandmother’s sake. Mary and her friends perform to “Out Here on My Own” as Slater, summoned by another vision of Jesus, arrives just in time to watch. The record player inadvertently speeds up, and Mary falls – echoing her parents’ fatal performance – but, encouraged by Jesus, she successfully leads her friends through their performance.

Met with a standing ovation, Mary wins the talent show. Sky kisses her, but she rejects him, and kisses Slater. The film ends as Mary, now dating Slater, again kisses the tree.



Superstar received negative reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 32% based on reviews from 74 critics, with the consensus: "Dumb script and flat jokes made this another SNL misfire."[4] On Metacritic the film has a score of 42% based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C+" on scale of A to F.[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film one star out of four, writing: "Here is a portrait of a character so sad and hapless, so hard to like, so impossible to empathize with, that watching it feels like an act of unkindness." He furthermore described Shannon's character as "hostile" and "not very nice", stating that "She's one of those people who inspires in you the inexplicable desire to be hurtful and cruel".[7] James Berardinelli of ReelViews, who gave the film two out of four stars, said that "Molly Shannon is a likable, energetic performer" and some of the jokes were "actually funny", but there would still not be "enough here to justify a feature-length movie". He also felt the film's attempts "at developing Mary into something more than a two-dimensional caricature" were pointless since "the script doesn't show any respect for her".[8] Dennis Harvey of Variety magazine gave a positive review, calling the film a "pleasant surprise" as he expected only mediocrity from another Saturday Night Live adaptation. He said it is "amusing" but "uneven", suggesting it might build good word of mouth and do well but would be unlikely to reach the commercial success of Wayne's World.[9]


  1. ^ "Superstar (1999) - Financial Information". The Numbers (website).
  2. ^ "Superstar". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ a b Gates, Anita (October 8, 1999). "Superstar (1999) FILM REVIEW; The Things She'll Do For Fame and a Date". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Superstar (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  5. ^ "Superstar". Metacritic.
  6. ^ "Movie Title Search: STAR". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2019-08-09.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert (October 8, 1999). "Superstar".
  8. ^ James Berardinelli. "ReelViews Reviews Superstar".
  9. ^ Dennis Harvey (Oct 8, 1999). "Variety Reviews Superstar".

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