Oscars 2015: The verdict on Neil Patrick Harris? 'Befuddlingly, stymied by the exigencies of hosting'

Barney from How I Met Your Mother drew mixed reactions from the critics at the 87th Academy Awards

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The Independent Culture

Nobody can say Neil Patrick Harris wasn't fully committed to hosting the Oscars. The How I Met Your Mother star even stripped down to his underpants to recreate the infamous scene in Birdman where Michael Keaton gets his dressing gown stuck in a door.

The comic actor is no stranger to glitzy prize-givings having hosted the Tony Awards four times and the Emmy Awards twice.

But, nevertheless the gig is the Hamlet of the awards season with many accomplished hosts crashing and burning (James Franco, Anne Hathaway), while others tread too roughshod over Hollywood sensitivities (Seth MacFarlane).

The last decade has seen 12 different Oscars hosts with Ellen DeGeneres (who engineered last year’s iconic Oscars selfie), Jon Stewart and Hugh Jackman among the very best – even though they received mixed reviews.

So what was the verdict on Harris?

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Cheeky but earnest

“Owing more to Billy Crystal than most recent predecessors, Harris celebrated the movies in a cheeky but earnest way, incorporating both cinematic history and this year’s nominees. Yet the fast-moving sequence didn’t take itself too seriously, and proved playful enough to even spoof some of the industry’s sequel-oriented foibles. In terms of setting an upbeat tone for the evening, it was certainly a promising start.” – Variety

If in doubt, take your clothes off

“All those months playing German wannabe rockstar Hedwig on Broadway paid off big time for Neil Patrick Harris, who scooted during the 87th Oscars ceremony from his dressing room to the stage of the Dolby Theatre wearing nothing but his tighty-whities…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.”  – Deadline

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Pants? Harris is nothing if not committed

Playing it safe

“Harris delivered a solid performance. Not his best. And not Oscar's best. But not so awful that he will be shouted from the stage. He was naturally funny and, armed with a good voice and a great sense of rhythm, more than capable of delivering on the song-and-dance man promise. He also remembered the first rule of showbusiness: when all else fails, take your pants off.” – The Age

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'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - Harris jokes

Er, don't they have autocue?

“The only person who didn’t seem entirely prepared was Neil Patrick Harris...He had been presold as an expert live host, and yet seemed, befuddlingly, stymied by the exigencies of hosting. Whether it was his stumbling repeatedly over names or his truly uncomfortable segues, Harris seemed to violate the awards ceremony host’s mandate: first, do no harm. A star who had in every other setting appeared gleefully eager was, at the Oscars, glum and low energy.” – Time

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