Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Akiva Schaffer Jorma Taccone

Starring

Akiva Schaffer Andy Samberg Jorma Taccone

Anticipation.

These boys know comedy. Could this be The One?

Enjoyment.

It could’ve been, but it really isn’t.

In Retrospect.

Just – just! – good enough for us to want to keep tab on the Lonely Island’s future antics.

The high-rolling times of apocryphal teen idol Conner4Real make for a maddeningly shallow movie experience.

That thing when you’re watching a comedy movie and just wishing, hoping and praying that this thing gets a whole lot funnier, and damn quickly. But then your eyes droop downwards to your oversized wristwatch and you can see that its 87 minute runtime is ticking away, and the likelihood of things perking up to any truly satisfying degree becomes more remote. In the spirit of the classic disposable pop song, this fish-in-a-barrel parody/satire of the modern preening matinee idol burns semi-brightly for a short time before fizzling out to less than nothing.

The underachieving project is the brainchild of the American musical/comedy troupe known as The Lonely Island, whose line-up includes Andy Samberg (the star), Jorma Taccone (co-star, co-director) and Akiva Schaffer (co-star, co-director). The team are known for their comedy albums, and films such as Hot Rod and McGruber. On the evidence of their existing corpus, these are really funny guys who find it easy to do what they do. They are up to the minute with their references, and are game for going all-out to secure the laugh.

And yet, Popstar just constantly falls over itself, never quite making the connection needed to convert the mild titter into the full-blown belly laugh. Samberg plays Conner4Real, a crude extrapolation of Justins Bieber and Timberlake who exists as the ultimate, multi-platform pop performer. He’s rich, dumb, brash and the well-meaning politics of his music are always offensive on a subtextual level. The film traces his arc from the heady heights of commercial and critical success, to the doldrums and his eventual artistic reconnection with the boyband from which he graduated, The Style Boyz.

Maybe the film’s creative poverty is the result of having to work too fast – knowing that the half-life of the references is so swift, that this whole enterprise has to hit a tiny window to remain culturally relevant. It like watching something that’s dying before your eyes. The film picks and crops from This Is Spinal Tap, but the Lonely Island crew sometimes can’t see the comic bounty that sits before them, opting more often to churn out gags than taking this tattooed grotesque at face value. The funny thing about Spinal Tap is that there aren’t any jokes. This one packs them in wall-to-wall, and the large majority are poor or sloppy or obvious. In fact, when the biggest laugh of your entire movie is a Ringo Starr ad-lib, you know it’s time to go back and hit that drawing board real hard.

Published 23 Aug 2016

Tags: Andy Samberg Justin Bieber Justin Timberlake Lonely Island

Anticipation.

These boys know comedy. Could this be The One?

Enjoyment.

It could’ve been, but it really isn’t.

In Retrospect.

Just – just! – good enough for us to want to keep tab on the Lonely Island’s future antics.

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