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Friday, June 3, 2016

Movie Review: #Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Review by Matt Cummings

If This is Spinal Tap represents the pinnacle of the music mockumentary, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a powerful lesson in what can happen when nearly all the same "right pieces" turn out something very different. Hilariously inventive throughout - but painfully slow when character development needs to take place - the comedy hits some interesting heights and nearly wins over our love.

For boy-band leader Connor Friel (AKA Connor4real, played by Andy Samberg), his first project Style Boyz was a sensation that needed to end. Started by his best friends Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) and DJ Owen (Jorma Taccone), the act became an example of 90's excess silliness with tracks like Karate Guy and Donkey Roll. After a fight on stage, the band breaks up and Connor embarks upon a successful solo career, experiencing instant success. But it's not long before his second album crashes, leading the douche canoe to reconsider his life's choices. As Connor's life descends into a litany of bad choices and his fiancee's breakup, he must either reconcile with his former bandmates or completely disappear from the news cycle, condemned to a Vegas show act instead of pop immortal.

Popstar contains some genuinely hilarious moments. In fact, the first 15 minutes of universe building is some of the best comedy of 2016. Songs like Bin Laden - about Connor's girlfriend's sexual demands - are classic Lonely Island. The trio parade a cavalcade of pop stars in 'interview' positions as they remark on the success/failure/rebirth of Connor, some of which again is excellent. But soon, Popstar begins to run long in the tooth. You can only have so many SNL-type skits (of about the same length), cobbled together with more SNL Digital Shorts, and then back to the skits before you begin to see a pattern. Once that's exposed (like the man's genitals that Connor is forced to sign), I started wanting this thing to end. But at only 86 minutes, one would think that ending would arrive sooner than you'd expect. Quite the opposite: the script by Lonely Island starts to embark upon greater and greater amounts of ad libbing that seems more like a plug to a growing crack in the levy.

I'm not going to start bagging on Samberg or his former SNL cohorts, as Popstar is supposed to be stupidly funny. Just like his faux band, Samberg is clearly the best at delivering these lines, but his partners get their moments to stare blankly at the camera, or in Scaffer's case to pose in front of poorly-carved wood statues. Sarah Silverman - who plays their agent - is more straightman in the whole affair, something she exceeds at doing. But Popstar's also got something to say about the state of Internet fandom, musician egos, the sellout, and plenty of other topics. Some of it works, but most is just attempts to keep our interest before the next funny song arrives.

I did love the pop numbers, and both Schaffer and Taccone as co-directors prove they can construct a scene. Connor's opportunistic manager (played by Tim Meadows) is also a delight, and proves that he's ready to make us laugh again after a long absence. If you walk in the most minimum of expectations - and make sure you don't waste a full ticket price on such a short film - then, Popstar might actually entertain.

Filled with moments of sheer hilarity - but bogged down by seemingly hours of filler drudgery, Popstar sinks when the characters need to actually start talking. The SNL-type Digital Shorts are really great and the film in general will play great for tweens, teens, and the early 20-somethings.. But for the rest of us, things here get old real fast. It's not the worst thing we've seen all year, but it does make a convincing case for the troubles which some former SNL leads experience when transitioning to the big screen.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is rated R for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use and has a runtime of 86 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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