The 87th annual Academy Awards were a bit of a letdown; there were no real surprises in any of the major categories, winners’s acceptance speeches got too political, and there was a shortage of good performances (apart from an outstanding turn from Lady Gaga channeling Julie Andrews).
And it looks like the viewers agree; this year’s numbers (36.4 million viewers) represent a 7-year low for Oscars broadcasts.
Not helping matters was the lukewarm reception accorded to Neil Patrick Harris, the four-time Tony Award host and two-time Emmy host, who was supposed to be a surefire hit.
But the critics piled on. Going after everything from the “dad jokes” to the interesting wardrobe choices, critics found plenty to take issue with, although some bits, like the opening musical number with Anna Kendrick and Jack Black, earned praise.
Below, check out a short roundup of what critics in the media are saying about Neil Patrick Harris’s performance:
Hollywood Reporter: “The song-and-dance showman appeared at ease on the Dolby Theatre stage, even with that John Travolta moment while pronouncing Chiwetel Ejiofor’s name. He hit his share of easy targets — swag, Harvey Weinstein, 50 Shades spanking benches, whistleblower Edward Snowden — but Harris displayed winning charm and appealing insouciance, sprinkling the gags with moments of self-deprecation. He excluded The Smurfs 2 from films worthy of being honored (“The script read funny”), and in a more indirect nod to his own roots, introduced Jason Bateman as ‘easily the most well-adjusted former child star in the room.’”
L.A. Times: “In the end, Harris’ trick encapsulated his performance as host. It was earnest and competently executed, and it was probably much more complicated to pull off than he made it look. But one thing it wasn’t was magical.”
Variety: “In another cautionary note, the writing in the opening section felt a bit strained. Yes, it was funny to have Harris joke about the Oscars recognizing “the best and the whitest — sorry, brightest” in light of the controversy about the dearth of minority nominees this year, but two apologies for the crassly commercial nature of the industry in close proximity (the other delivered by Liam Neeson) risked sounding more defensive than amusing. And that pun based on Reese Witherspoon’s name? Ouch.”
Deadline: “Whether it was the barbed lines or three-plus hours of material that just grew flatter by the minute, Harris was a different figure from the fearless, amiable and funny emcee of multiple Tony Awards and other shows. If he seemed stiff and uncharacteristically uncomfortable in the new role, well at least he looked great, whether in Dolce & Gabbana or Haines. Maybe his nervousness was due to the global audience; no-one watches the Tonys.”
New York Times: “The political speeches were somber, but they turned out to be more lively and bracing than any of Mr. Harris’s skits.”
Washington Post: “While Harris does a great job hosting the Emmy Awards, the Tony Awards and even the TV Land Awards, the Oscars proved to be too much of a monster for even NPH to tame.”
New York Post: “It’s a shame because Harris is generally an assured, charismatic presence. That he stumbled so mightily just proves what an impossible, thankless task it is to host the Oscars.”
T.V. Guide: “Perhaps it was weak material that dragged Harris down at the Oscars. After all, we’ve seen him do a bang-up job getting us through the Tonys and the Emmys. But an awards show that pushes the three-and-a-half hour mark on a Sunday night requires a host that will keep people not only awake, but enthused about what they’re seeing on screen. And Harris just didn’t cut it.”
The Guardian: “Finally, he gets his big break and, well, he choked. But maybe it wasn’t Harris as much as his material. He introduced every single presenter with some kind of silly joke or pun. Hardly any of them were funny, and some of them were groaners. Remember the one about Josh Hutcherson playing the Peeta that won’t throw paint on you? Get it?! His character in The Hunger Games has the same name as Peta, the organization that throws paint on people wearing fur! Yeah, I wish I could forget it too.”
U.S.A. Today: “Though he’s as likable as ever, Harris’s bits were painfully unfunny and long. The part where he mimicked Michael Keaton in Birdman by wearing only underwear and having a tracking shot follow him through the halls should have been great, but it was a bust because NPH has an excellent body — the one you wish you had. That bit’s only funny if it’s a schlubby Will Ferrell doing the same thing. Otherwise it’s just vanity.”