Film Review: 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping'
Anyone who knows Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island knows to expect the most outlandish and catch-phrasey content on the internet. Not surprisingly, he was able to parlay his comedic talents and skyrocketing popularity into a leading role in Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, utilizing his eccentric acting abilities to make a hit comedy show.
Of course, the natural next step in Samberg's career is his big-time silver screen debut after 2007's Hot Rod; that comes in the form of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a bombastic mockumentary that satirizes everything that's wrong - and rarely right - with the popular music industry and its shallow stars. The flick boasts some serious comedic firepower behind it; writing credits belong exclusively to the Lonely Island lineup of Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer; Taccone and Schaffer share directing duties; and legendary comedy producer Judd Apatow has thrown his support behind the film. These are all things that would make you think Popstar is a total laugh-train, one without a single stop or delay.
It sure starts that way. Our introduction to pop music icon Conner (Samberg) and his group The Style Boyz, with Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva), is as funny as it gets, with a show of satirical music tracks that just pile on the punchlines - like the song "I'm So Humble" which is ironically all about how proud and egotistical Conner actually is. Hey, it's The Lonely Island movie - what else can you expect besides self-aware and foul-mouthed pop music tracks?
They transition into the beginnings of Conner's solo career - in particular, his first solo tour that struggles in attendance. In fact, Conner keeps getting into headlines for the wrong reasons, and he's always trying to cook up ways to divert public attention to his hard talents with the help of his manager Harry (Tim Meadows) and publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman). But by going solo, he's alienated Lawrence, which sees him resigned to a quiet farm life, and Owen plays second-fiddle as his personal DJ.
Yet, like Conner's solo career, the second half of the film unceremoniously drops off a cliff, as we get further away from the group's strong suit of hilarious music into the personal details of Conner's life, which simply aren't as interesting, nor as funny. Conner really starts to spiral downward and see his fame and fortune quickly disappear, just as the movie just runs out of jokes to tell and pop music tropes to lampoon. Conner finds time to drink himself into a stupor and self-loathe, finally bringing him down to rock bottom.
Popstar's habit of lampooning the pop music scene and its obnoxious stars wears thin pretty quickly to the point where it's hardly funny. As a result, the movie is no longer a smart and catchy lampooning of the music industry, but a tired and stale act that's run out of gas. Either that, or the whole shtick of raunchy top 40-style tracks gets too tired to sustain a feature-length film. Hours of online content proves that The Lonely Island is at their very best in four- or five-minute increments; their movie proves a ninety-minute serving of them is simply too much to bear.
Rated R. 86 minutes.
Written by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone.
Starring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, and Imogen Poots.