“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” suffers from the same disease that plagues most middle-of-the-road comedies: they start super strong, are peppered with satisfying laughs, but then slowly peter out in a sad, desperate attempt to remain relevant. The contemporary rock mockumentary concept is a good one, but the execution is poor and most of the jokes don’t work. When I laughed, I laughed hard. Problem is, it wasn’t that often.
Andy Samberg plays Conner 4 Real, a floundering popstar who can’t quite duplicate the early success he had as a member of the boy band Style Boyz. The adorably charismatic Jorma Taccone (DJ Owen) and Akiva Schaffer (Lawrence) play the rest of the “donkey roll” dancing trio. All of these comic actors are talented and immensely likeable, and they made me care about the characters and the story. The bits that explore the relationship of the three guys really works. There’s also a seemingly endless parade of real life musicians (including a funny bit with Justin Timberlake) but unlike “Zoolander 2,” the cameos were fun and not a bit bothersome. They work within the mockumentary concept.
The best part of the film (apart from the wildly bizarre Eric Andre cameo) comes from the crudely amusing songs that Conner performs. The lyrics are super lewd but the tunes are catchy. I was cringing when I caught myself humming one of the more, um, ‘interesting’ tunes as I left the theater — one about a hot girl and Osama Bin Laden.
The audience for this film is very specific and I don’t think it’s going to be a huge hit, but it has the potential to achieve cult status once it’s released on DVD. “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a fun diversion if you like music, love the humor of The Lonely Island, or are a fan of Samberg, but the material is only about 50% funny — and would’ve been better suited for a Saturday Night Live skit.
“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a clever little music mockumentary in the style of “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “This is Spinal Tap,” and “A Mighty Wind.” In “Popstar,” comedy troupe The Lonely Island has created a worthy successor to those movies; this film aims its satirical laser at modern pop and hip hop music culture.
Andy Samberg is Conner4Real, a Bieber-like pop music star that has made a career ripping off other, more talented artists and stepping on the friends and others that have helped him ascend to superstar status. When his newest album flops, Conner is forced to engage — for the first time in his life — in self-examination to figure out who he is and who he wants to be. As his assorted hangers-on and yes men gradually leave his stable for greener pastures, Conner has to figure out who his real friends are, that is if he has any left.
The first 30 minutes or so of “Popstar” are both masterful and f**king hilarious. The quips, jokes, and one-liners come fast and furious. This is a movie that rewards you for being an attentive viewer; if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss some of the best stuff. Some of the funniest gags come from fake interviews from music industry icons, bottom-of-screen scrolls on news programs, or from the brief appearances of actors like Will Arnett, Eric Andre, or even Adam Levine.
And then there’s the soundtrack: each song is itself an amazing satire of pop and hip hop music through the last decade; as the movie progresses, the lyrics to each work become more empty and asinine than the last, each one celebrating raunch, excess, bro culture, or false humility.
Unfortunately, like many such movies, “Popstar” loses some steam in the second act when it starts to focus its attention on plot. Whereas the first 30 minutes or so moves so quickly that I’m convinced I missed jokes that I’ll have to see the movie again to catch, during the middle act very little actually happens. Things pick up again as the film hurdles towards its conclusion, but it’s unable to regain its early momentum. If not for the second act, this would have gotten a higher rating. Nevertheless, it’s a very good and funny movie that’s worth checking out.