“Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest,” joked Harris, 41, clearly not pulling any punches from the start.
As is only natural for the man who’s hosted the Tonys and the Emmys, Harris then launched into an opening tune that was a true film lover’s tribute to movies – “how they can move you and improve you” – that referenced everything from Singin’ in the Rain to Star Wars, Back to the Future to Basic Instinct.
The tribute featured Anna Kendrick embodying a slightly sassier version of her Into the Woods character (not to mention spoiling Gone Girl!) and a semi-rapping Jack Black, plus Stormtroopers dancing with 1940s glamour gals.
Harris got in a few friendly digs, too, singing, “I secretly hope someone pulls a Kanye West,” claiming that the portion of the audience affiliated with box-office-breaking American Sniper “is Oprah – because you’re rich” and even dinging his own Smurfs 2 (“it read funny”).
Harris’s brief monologue after the “completely improvised” musical number was more earnest as he said Sunday’s ceremony would be about the films that inspire us “to chase impossible dreams and to stand up for our rights.”
It was a joyous start to a night – if only because, as Harris put it, “no one’s drunk and bitter yet ’cause no one has lost.”