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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 24
Naughty Popstar an uneven, if funny, music industry satire
Arts & Entertainment
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Naughty Popstar an uneven, if funny, music industry satire

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

POPSTAR:
NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING
Now playing


There's not a lot I can say about Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. A rambunctious satire of the music business and the nature and pursuit of celebrity in a social media age, this is the type of comedy where you either find what it's doing to be amusing or you scan around the theatre perplexed wondering what all the fuss is about. The film is a 'Saturday Night Live' endeavor in that it often feels like a never-ending series of extended skits tethered together one after the other, the hit-to-miss ratio entirely dependent on how one responds to each gag individually.

The film is the brainchild of Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone (both of whom also direct) and Andy Samberg, a.k.a. The Lonely Island, the three collaborators drawing inspiration from mock documentaries like This is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman in the chronicling of Justin Bieber-like superstar Conner4Real and his fall from grace. As portrayed by Samberg, Conner is the ultimate dimwitted man-child, an egotistical know-nothing who believes there's nothing at all offensive about crafting a rousing protest song supporting Gay marriage and LGBT rights even if every other lyric reminds the listener he's as straight as they come. He also sees nothing wrong with composing a love song that compares sleeping with a beautiful woman to SEAL Team Six's raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound, and as such seems genuinely stunned when sales of his latest album go straight into the toilet.

Schaffer, Taccone and Samberg were responsible for some of the best musical-comedy moments 'Saturday Night Live' has ever seen, songs like 'I'm on a Boat' and 'Dick in a Box' unquestionably hysterical. As such, the musical numbers are close to extraordinary, that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis send-up piece borderline brilliant. There is also a terrific Beastie Boys-sounding riff at the beginning of the film, Conner making a name for himself alongside his two best friends Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer) in a group called The Style Boyz before selfishly going off on a solo career after he becomes a sex symbol and they do not.

But all of the music, as ribald, vulgar and blatantly offensive as it might be, is wonderful, each song and performance a witty, rib-tickling assault on the senses that had me laughing out loud. The final massive number is a sensational affair featuring cameos from a pair of pop music titans, a Left Shark jab at Katy Perry and enough manic energy from Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer to fuel seven faux documentaries, not just one of them. It sent me out of the theatre on a massive high, initially making me forget about all the dull spots and dry spells as I couldn't help but keep giggling thinking about what it was I had just seen and heard.

Yet, there are a lot of dull spots. Additionally, there potentially might be even more dry spells. Like a lot of scattershot comedies, especially ones with even a passing connection to 'Saturday Night Live,' some gags go on far past their expiration date, overstaying their welcome long after the laughs have come to an end. Then there are the jokes that just fall flat on their face, ones where you can see the seeds have been planted to grow something humorous but for whatever reason the gosh darn flower just refuses to blossom.

As such, it comes as no surprise that some of the numerous cameos or guest appearances are sublime (the look on Pink's face during the Gay marriage number had me in stitches, and Usher's reaction to taking the stage to do The Style Boyz's signature dance move is just about priceless), but others barely register to the point why those involved even took the gig in the first place is a question I couldn't find a decent answer for (Joan Cusack, as Conner's mother, is particularly wasted in a throwaway role). It's almost as if Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer were making some of this stuff up as they were shooting it; and while this gives things a loosey-goosey ambiance that's sometimes endearing, it isn't enough so to mask the obvious imperfections muddying up their comedy mirror.

There isn't a lot in the way of consistency as far as Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is concerned, and when the characters stop singing, the lull between numbers is rather immense. But Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer are smart, talented guys, and while they don't rise to Christopher Guest-like heights they do get just close enough to make me think this Lonely Island trio might get there sooner rather than later. There's just enough that's glorious here to make giving this satirical send-up a worthwhile look, and whether that happens at the theatre for a matinee or at home via a rental I think I'll just have to leave up to those reading this review to decide on their own.

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