Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) Movie Reviews

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) Movie Reviews

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) Movie Reviews

This is a silly gut-busting delight, the kind of movie that I'd see with my dad if I saw more movies with him - it's basically what I'd call "Son of Spinal Tap" and like when you got the "Son of" movies of old (Song of Kong, Son of Frankenstein, whatever) it's not up to par with that, but then that's among the funniest comedies of all time. The "Lonely Island" team may take on some targets who are almost so obscenely ridiculous in real life - ie Justin Bieber's comments after leaving the Anne Frank house - but they have an excellent instinct for taking on these targets in the pop music world of today, which is just about unlistenable in many respects, and throwing on the silliness and vulgarity but the vulgarity works because it's from a place that's not really mean.

The main character of Samberg's, "Connor 4-Real", is one of those lovable self-obsessed idiots of the movies who works because he is so unaware of how dickish he acts to people around him. There are times where the improv approach as it's an Apatow production by the way goes on a bit too long, mostly in the second half of the movie (the first half fires on all cylinders and largely in part due to the songs and music videos with themes like "I'm so Humble" and f***ing a woman as if it was killing Bin Laden!) But on the whole I found a lot of really sharp actors around Samberg - Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman, Justin Timberlake, and many other 'real' people (and a helluva running cameo from Will Arnett, the highlight of the movie for me as a "CMZ" chief editor ala TMZ) - that makes it consistently funny.

And it's the kind of dopey modern satire I like if it has to be done this way at a big studio level: keep the gags and jokes coming, even if they involve penises (and this movie has one of the better ones), and if there's a gag that falls flat there's one in a minute that will keep the pace back up, whether it has to do with "10 seconds to Mars" (it's a band, not a fact) or unexpected celebrities like Seal and the Rza. Call it a semi-guilty pleasure but I had a lot of laughs here, and more than some other SNL movies I can think of.

Satirical Look at Our Celebrity Obsessed Culture
The mockumentary style of filmmaking can be a divisive one. You have to balance the tone well enough for viewers to believe in the story you're trying to tell while also giving enough laughs to please the fans of the genre. Even if Popstar didn't produce as many big laughs as I would have hoped, I can appreciate the attempt to change the structure to typical filmmaking.

Starring the trio from The Lonely Island and pretty much every other comedian and/or celebrity, Popstar has a tendency to rely too heavily on surprise cameos and over-the-top gags. That's not to say I didn't think the main cast had their moments, they did. But the biggest laughs came from surprise appearances from people I didn't know were in the film.

The overabundance of celebrities make me curious as to why virtually no one showed up to the theatre to see the film. It's also not like they didn't properly market the film. The trailers show exactly what you're going to get; a raunchy comedy told with in the mockumentary style about a dysfunctional lead singer who struggles to regain fame, with plenty of cameos mixed in. Perhaps there just isn't the audience for this type of story.

The other detraction of Popstar is that it's blatantly predictable. We all know how these films about music stars/bands go, there's a breakup, downfall, and usually a rise. So when the film reaches for a little bit of dramatic weight via one of these clich├ęs, you see it coming a mile away.

With all this said, there's plenty of entertainment to be had here. It's a quick watch and the film definitely earns its R rating in a good way, so I can see the appeal here for comedy fans or anyone who has watched SNL in the last 10 years or so. But I think there just needed to be a few more big laughs under a more original story.

+Surprise cameos

+Lonely Island chemistry

-Sometimes story takes second to cameos



A surprise hit in a unique genre
While we've seen plenty of mockumentaries before it's not every year we see a new one. It's a genre that goes mostly unexplored, especially in mainstream cinema. From the trio of The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) we get Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Popstar follows Samberg's Conner4real, a Justin Bieber-like performer with A-list celebrity status, from his time with the boy band The Style Boyz to his solo career. On the verge of his negatively received new album and a world tour Conner must cope with the potential decline of his career and his celebrity status. The film works as a hilarious satire on the music industry while also being a parody of the concert tour documentaries we've come to see from various artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction, and The Jonas Brothers. Comedy veterans Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows make supporting appearances and Chris Redd has fun with a potential breakout role as Hunter the Hungry, a fellow musician who's on the way up while Conner is on the way down. Not every joke in the movie hit, but the ones that did had me nearly falling out of my chair in laughter. The Lonely Island are known for their super catchy and occasionally raunchy songs and Popstar delivers in that department. So much so you'll likely have the songs stuck in your head in the following days. Popstar is an overall fun time at the theater. Also, be sure to be on the lookout for the plethora of celebrity cameos Popstar sprinkles within it's 87 minute run time.

A Little Formulaic, But Admittedly Funny.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping never looked all that appealing to me, but I must say it was surprisingly better than I expected. Seeing the trailers I thought the film was another in a wave of ultra dumb comedies, but up front, it's really not. Popstar is a little formulaic, but is admittedly funny, and finds a way to even be witty. Even more impressive, although not all that surprising is that some of the songs in this movie are actually pretty catchy, albeit mock-ups.

For those who love This is Spinal Tap and other films of that nature, this film is a little derivative. That being said, it's not as if this is just a rehash of other better films, that entire genre does require modernizations every few years. Because this film is spoofing not only the musicians of today, but everybody in the entertainment world. That being said this film does list as another Judd Apatow film and does have some formulaic moments that appear in all of his films.

The most notable "Appatowism" in this film is the overdone comedy trope of today, where the film lingers on jokes far longer than they should, under the illusion that lingering over a joke makes it funnier. It's kinda like when a goofy kid makes a great joke everybody laughs, and then the kid gets confident and keeps pushing the joke until everybody around is just wishing he'd shut up and go away. That being said, the film doesn't live off the annoying lingering joke, and succeeds at being genuinely funny, all the time. It's not the funniest movie this year, and it may not even be hilarious, but the film is consistently littered with raunchy funny jokes, that often deliver.

The film was marketed poorly, in my opinion, because it came across as an ultra dumb comedy, and in reality isn't half as dumb as it comes across as. The film occasionally wanders into the dumb comedy area, but often finds it's way back into the land of witty comedies, making it somewhat of a mixed bag. For instance, the songs are catchy, they are witty reflections of our pop stars, but they are also a little too on the nose, making them come across as a little dumb. That being said, underneath the thin exterior of a dumb comedy is a really witty reflection of our current music industry, and the pressures, idiocracy, immaturity, selfishness, and chaos commonly associated with it.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is filled with cameos from famous musicians and comedy actors, some of which even lend their singing talents to the musical pieces. At times it feels like the entire music industry is in this film, as they play along on a mockumentary making fun of them. However, the film is never really mean spirited, or all that damning it just grooves along, spoofing everybody from the musicians to the fans. For those who like the lonely island, you'll love this movie, and for those who are seeking a funny comedy, regardless of rating this is also a movie you'll love, but there should be a note, this movie really isn't for kids or the weak spined.

Is it constantly laugh out loud funny? No. Is it worth a watch? Yes
You have to go into this movie knowing it's satire. There are so many reviews interpreting this as a serious movie, and it is not. Basically, this is a "mockumentary" sort of movie about the fictional character Connor and his solo act "Connor4Real". The mockumentary format can be a bit offputting to some, so keep that in mind. I got used to it pretty fast, though. Most of the jokes were met with that slight "heh" and exhale you do when something is funny, but not funny enough to warrant an actual laugh at. There were a few scenes where everyone in the theater lost it, though. 

This plays out like a long SNL/Lonely Island sketch, and for some people that is good, and others it is bad. If you enjoy the Lonely Island's previous work, you'll most likely enjoy this. Check out their official Youtube channel; they've posted some clips from the movie if you want to see the kind of comedy in it.

If you have some time to spare, go see this movie. If you have to make time to see it, I would wait until it is released on DVD or streaming. My reaction to it is an "Eh, it was good".

Pretty silly and fun
The scene in the new comedy POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING that made me laugh the most was when the out of touch POPSTAR played by Andy Samberg autographs a penis. If this set up sounds like something you might get a chuckle out of, keep reading. If not, you may go back to whatever else you were doing.

Okay...that should have gotten rid of the contingent that this is movie is NOT for. For the rest of you degenerates, I would highly recommend POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING as a laugh out load jokefest that skewers just about everything in modern POPSTAR-ism.

Andy Samberg stars as white rapper Superstar Connor who is living off the enormous popularity of his first solo album. When his 2nd album tanks, Connor tries everything in his power to stay on top. And those things are pretty silly, crude, funny, grotesque, inappropriate, foul...you get the point. If that type of humor appeals to you (and it does to me), then you'll enjoy this.

Samberg co-wrote this film with his THE LONELY ISLAND compatriots Jorma Taccone (who co-stars) and Akiva Schaffer (who co-stars and directs). These 3 grew up on Saturday Night Live and this film has the feel of a variety of sketches tied together, fairly successfully, into a film. Samberg brings the right amount of cluelessness, selfishness and charm to the role of Connor which gives us a character that we can root for and against. He is ably assisted by co-stars Schaffer and Taccone as well as a litany of comedy and musical guest stars - mostly in cameos. The likes of Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Joan Cusack, Will Arnett and Kevin Nealon all join in on the fun as well as musical stalwarts Carrie Underwood, Usher, 50 Cent, Ringo Starr, Adam Levine and Mariah Carey, to name just a few. They all come on the screen with great energy and play along just right.

Is it a "classic" comedy? Well...no. But it's a pretty good one that gave me enough laughs - including the penis joke belly laugh - that enables me to strongly recommend this film. If you're looking for a 90 minute escape, then you will be well rewarded by POPSTAR, it's well worth seeing.

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