MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Popstar’ has at least a few hits

popstar review

Film: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer

From the makers of heralded comedic masterpieces such as “Dick in a Box” and “Motherlover” comes a 21st century satire on the extravagance and vapidness of modern pop idols. Sounds like a pretty good tagline, right? I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t excited about The Lonely Island’s new brainchild. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a whirlwind of a comedy, throwing the viewer into gag after gag until it causes whiplash. The problem here is that not every gag lands. This Is Spinal Tap this is not, but there are so many hints at greatness here that you may not care.

Popstar follows Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) as his new solo album, one of the most anticipated of the decade, fails to find any kind of acclaim. He then lashes out in hilarious ways in between making up ways to win back his fans. His humble roots as a member of The Style Boyz beckons, though. Will his celebrity status and pride get in the way of achieving true happiness? I don’t know, but it’s kind of funny to watch.

At an incredibly breezy 84 minutes, Popstar is loaded with ideas that come a mile a minute. Whether that is having Conner propose to his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) in front a pack of rabid wolves or signing a promotional contract with an appliance company that will play his music out of every product, it’s clear that The Lonely Island gang are throwing so much into this project that it becomes unwieldy. Is this Conner’s pseudo-doc about the fall from stardom? At its core, sure. There’s so many tangents along the way that you could forget about that, though. Such is the conceit of fake documentaries. The “isolated moment and time” format of actual documentaries is sunken under admirable aspiration.

That isn’t to say that the people putting on the show aren’t at their best. Andy Samberg goes all out as Conner, an even dopier version of most of the characters that Samberg plays. The mopey, sardonic brand of Samberg makes Conner’s emotional lows really damn funny (and kind of touching). The other Lonely Island cohorts, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, both show up as members of The Style Boyz, too! Taccone being the enabling best friend and DJ of Conner’s gigs, Owen. In one scene, Owen is made to wear a helmet fashioned by and emitting the sounds of Transformers and the heartbreak that creeps on his face could carry most of the movie. Schaffer gets sidelined a bit as another member of The Style Boyz, Lawrence, a former friend who exiled himself to a life of farming after Conner stole his lyrics. Of course, there are a million more comedic performers popping up at every juncture. Notable ones include Tim Meadows as Conner’s manager, who almost walks away with the whole damn movie, and Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist, always crafting new ways to spread her employer’s influence forcefully.

Schaffer and Taccone took to directing Popstar on top of writing it, as well. Their style fluctuates between using documentary tactics and actual narrative tactics. It seems like the duo understand the doc gimmick can be worn thin pretty quick, so they very quickly ditch it and return to it only a couple more times. It’s really odd to see something almost passively satirical to today’s musical culture. There’s the giant shows, parties and drug-doing, but most of it just seems like inflation of the wackiest ideas artists have come up with as of late. Much less of the film seems directly pointed at one artist or movement, making the comedy a lot more broad than their story (or lack thereof) is calling for.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping may not be the funniest comedy of the year (have you seen The Nice Guys yet?) but there’s so many things being thrown at a wall that some of it sticks. Tim Meadows’ manager type mentions how stardom is like a wave; you’ve got to ride it and appreciate the highs. With Popstar, appreciate the highs.

GRADE: B-

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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