The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Andy Samberg is a musician of minimal talent but maximum cheesiness in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a movie from The Lonely Island comedy trio.

Go Google yourself some Saturday Night Live digital shorts from these guys — “Jack Sparrow” with Michael Bolton seems particularly in-line with this movie. If two hours evaporate and you laugh soda out your nose, then Popstar might be for you. If your reaction is “pass” before the end of the first short, this is not your jam.
Conner 4Real (Samberg) is the standout of the Beastie-like Style Boyz, a group consisting of him and his two lifelong buddies, Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). After Conner’s self-regard leads to a split with Lawrence, Owen becomes the DJ for a Conner4Real “solo” act (solo in this case including oodles of dancers and hangers on). He has huge success with his first album. With his second, however, the reviews are not so good. Attempts to change the story — such as with an engagement to his girlfriend Ashley (Imogen Poots), whose life ambition is to be part of a celebrity couple — are not successful. (Wolves, apparently, are not good proposal props.) He sets out on tour and finds himself beset by problems, including low attendance, and so he brings on opening act Hunter (Chris Redd), who has his own set of issues.
What the Lonely Island shorts were good at is hitting the tone and feel of pop while highlighting some absurd aspect of it (the classic “D*** in a Box” does a bit of this) or using pop song and video tropes to address some issue in the culture (like “Iran So Far”). This is basically what Popstar does, using the 90-minute-commercial aspect of your pop star documentaries (Justin Bieber has a few, of which I’ve seen one but can no longer remember which one since they all sound the same) and pop music and stardom tropes in general (the song “Humble” does this pretty well) to tell a pretty standard story of a musician who crashes to earth after a few years of astronomical success and realizes that he was happiest when he was back with his childhood buddies. 
Popstar is no This Is Spinal Tap, but it does what it seems to have set out to do (play with the “popumentary”) pretty well. It is stupid, undeniably, but it is a kind of goofy stupid that I’m basically OK with. It has a lot of seasoned comedians and comic actors — Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Joan Cusack — adding little nuances to their performances. And sure, the setup of wacky scene after wacky scene (a corporate sponsor’s office, a post-show party, a proposal featuring Seal, etc.) does, indeed, lead to a “collection of sketches” feeling occasionally but I feel like, basically, it works here. I still can’t talk about the “Stonehenge” segment of Spinal Tap without cracking up; Popstar has no such moments, in fact it has few set-piece jokes that don’t basically evaporate as soon as you’re done watching them. But, and I’m sure plenty of people disagree with this, I find Andy Samberg appealing enough and Lonely Island clever enough about the culture they’re satirizing that I had fun more often than not, even when I got the sense that a lot of the laughs were lazier than The Lonely Island’s best work. B-
Rated R for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use. Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone and written by Andy Samberg & Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is an hour and 26 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures. 

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