Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is just about as funny as its title indicates, which is not all that.
Andy Samberg clearly misses those musical digital shorts he did so effectively when he was on Saturday Night Live, stuff like “I Just Had Sex” and the immortal “Dick In A Box,” so he’s basically turned them into a major studio movie.
To be sure, the dick — and in one fairly amusing scene dickless — jokes are all over Popstar and so are some pretty funny rap parodies including one in which Samberg’s narcissistic rapper calls for equal rights and gay marriage (even though it already exists) and another with unprintable things to say about Osama bin Laden. Samberg and his co-horts in The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (who co-star, co-write, co-produce and direct the film) certainly know their way around these kinds of comic bits, but as I say in my video review above, the material really wears thin when stretched over the course of a 90-minute feature.
Samberg plays one third of a very successful white boy rap group called Style Boyz which breaks up when he goes solo under the name Conner4Real. Initial success turns sour when his second album, Connquest, hits a lot of flat notes with critics and depresses crowd turnout on his disastrous tour. None of that seems to get to Conner, who is convinced he is the superstar he once was and will always be — in his own mind if not that of the public. His personal life isn’t that much better with girlfriend Ashley Wednesday (a pitch-perfect Imogen Poots) who really only wants to be one of those celebrity couples in U.S. magazines. To add insult to injury, his manager (Tim Meadows) makes him book a Triple X-rated but popular new black rapper named Hunter Hungry as his opening act in order to spur ticket sales — not a great idea since Hunter’s music isn’t exactly the right match for Conner’s, which is more Justin Bieber-ish. All of this is just an excuse for a grab bag of jokes that Samberg handles well, but without the edge that might make Conner4Real, well, for real.
The simplistic, happy-go-lucky tone of the film is papered over with endless celebrity cameos who appear in the mockumentary style employed by Taccone and Schaffer. So we get quick appearances touting Conner’s talent from the likes of Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, 50 Cent, Usher, Simon Cowell and many others, including a very funny Ringo Starr. Lots of SNL veterans also make the scene including Meadows, Kevin Nealon and my favorite, Bill Hader, as a Conner4Real roadie who spends his leisure time flatlining. If only the rest of the film was as funny as that guy. Justin Timberlake, who did so many of those digital shorts with Samberg, is along for the ride briefly as a chef. I did love the TMZ parodies that show up throughout the film, even if they aren’t all that cutting edge (how long has that show been on the air?); they still nail the vapidity of TMZ’s presentation like a sharp razor, thanks especially to Will Arnett’s dead-on Harvey Levin.
Bottom line, there is nothing terribly wrong about Popstar except that had the affable and likeable Samberg been able to find a darker side to Conner4Real, the film might have had an underbelly that made it more than the forgettable joke book it turns out to be.
Universal Pictures releases the film on Friday. In addition to the producing duties of The Lonely Island trio, Rodney Rothman and Judd Apatow also serve as producers.
Do you plan to see it? Let us know what you think.