Film Review: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Popstar Poster

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Plot Summary:

A mockumentary take on the life and times of fake pop star, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg).  With two weeks until his highly anticipated second solo album, we delve into Conner’s life story, including the fallout of his group band, all the people who manage and make Conner happy, and the overall chaos of maintaining his pop culture status.

This should have been a five minute Saturday Night Live sketch.  That’s all you need to know.  While the subject matter of following around a fake pop star can certainly sustain a full length picture, it’s no surprise that the brain trust for this, the Lonely Island, who are primarily known for short musical sketches, don’t have the material to justify a motion picture.  I knew within the first five minutes I wasn’t going to like this.  At the very least, I figured it would be passable, and I knew going in it was only 90 minutes long.  This droned on forever.  That’s usually my barometer for a bad movie.  There were a few chuckles, but this was an absolute chore to sit through.  The jokes are telegraphed.  The characters are woefully underwritten.  They often get desperate, going for pure shock gags.  I could go on all day, but with most bad comedies, it has the same underlying problem – it’s not funny.

pop pic 1

My biggest problem is it feels too much like a normal Behind the Music special.  It’s boring.  Much of the film feels like we’re following around a normal pop star who isn’t the least bit interesting.  Andy Samberg is passable in the role, but does absolutely nothing with this character.  The film knows its forgettable, which is why every fifteen minutes it completely shifts into a ridiculous and absurd situation.  There’s no middle ground.  Why This Is Spinal Tap works brilliantly is it found a balance between normal and crazy.  There is no balance here.  One scene is normal, the next is ludicrous.  I’m sure many of you reading this love Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island, and you think I’m just hating, so I’ll illustrate further why I’m not simply talking out of my ass.  (This Is Spinal Tap spoilers) One of the best scenes of This Is Spinal Tap is when they play Stonehenge.  It’s a massive build up, and when the stage prop finally comes down, it’s the size of a coffee pot.  That’s hilarious.  It’s not totally insane. It’s not just a shock gag.  It’s subtle and unpredictable.  What does Popstar do?  There’s a sequence where wolves are being held at bay with leashes.  Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen?  They get loose.  It’s total chaos.  Then they attack Seal.  It’s completely ridiculous, but not clever at all.  This is what I mean when I say comedy used to be better.  I’m not just being a nostalgic prick.

Speaking of the comedy, the jokes are way too telegraphed.  In one of the early scenes, Conner talks seriously about how his lyrics are insightful and mean something.  Take a guess as to what the next cut is?  Conner belting out a bunch of obscenities.  Cut me a break.  I’ll give the Lonely Island credit to some of the songs in the film.  They can definitely be clever, including one about gay marriage, but most of them are essentially getting on stage and screaming “I’m gonna f**k this” and “F**k that.”  I got two big laughs in this movie.  There’s one legitimately hilarious shock gag involving a costume change, and their shots at TMZ are pretty funny.  That’s about it.

The cast is completely forgettable.  They could care less about writing good characters.  They try and coast off the ridiculous situations they create, but if we don’t care about the people, they aren’t funny.  Sarah Silverman adds absolutely nothing.  Tim Meadows does what he can.  Akiva Schaffer as one of the old band members has moments, but Jorma Taccone who plays Conner’s sidekick, Owen, is a worthless character.  Maya Rudolph was the one actress who delivered.  I don’t even remember anyone else from the film.  Like I said, character was low on the list.

If you’re a die hard fan of this comedy troupe, you’ll probably like this.  For what it’s worth, the audience I saw this with seemed to enjoy it okay, but there was a lot of forced laughter.  The first half was passable, but there came a point where I knew it wasn’t getting better, and was probably only going to get worse.  The third act is drawn out to the point of lunacy.  I desperately wanted to go home.  Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is another depressing example of how far comedy has fallen, and I don’t care how many of you roll your eyes at that statement.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10 (Bad)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.