POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (7.5 out of 10) Directed by Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone; Written by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman,Imogen Poots, Maya Rudolph, Justin Timberlake, Will Arnett; Running time 86 minutes; Rated R for "some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use"; In wide release June 3, 2016.
The jokes fly as fast as the beats and rhymes do in this musical mockumentary following the lives of Conner4Real (Sandberg) and his fellow Lonely Island members (Schaffer and Taccone). Employing a "more is more" ethic of joke telling, they throw everything they can at the wall at a breakneck pace in hope some of it sticks.
Most of it does, which makes this fun for the less than an hour and a half you'll be in your seat here. And while the film is produced by Judd Apatow, this does what Apatow is never able to do and edit down to only the funny. The film's comic timing is perfect in this sense in that it doesn't overstay its welcome and focuses on what works.
But this isn't without its problems. The plot (as if it matters?) of Conner failing after abandoning his childhood friends and eventual reconciliation is completely predictable. But we didn't come for the plot. We came for the laughs and the music. And that's the second problem. The songs here are a tad underwhelming. The genius levels present in previous Lonely Island hits like the Oscar-nominated "Everything is Awesome", Emmy-nominated "Dick in a Box", or even "I'm On a Boat", "I Just Had Sex", or "Lazy Sunday" just aren't here. Some of the songs are funny, but because they have to spend half the film under the assumption Conner has a terrible, failed album that no one likes, we get blasted with intentionally terrible songs.
Luckily the film is buoyed up by its supporting cast, as Sandberg, Schaffer and Tacconne are only somewhat engaging as leads. Leading the way are comedy vets Tim Meadows and Sarah Silverman as Conner's manager and publicist, respectively. Meadows even gets his own story arc and is the moral compass of the film, as he himself deals with his past as the forgotten fourth member of Tony! Toni! Tone!.
The film also enjoys a steady cavalcade of celebrity cameos in true mockumentary fashion as artists from Questlove to A$AP Rocky to Usher to Pharrell Williams all talk about the influence of Conner4Real and his former group The Style Boyz. In true Lonely Island fashion, they also unite with musical artists like P!nk and Adam Levine on some of their songs, which provide some of the best parts of the film.
All of this blends into a spot-on satire of the state of today's music industry and celebrity-obsessed culture, right down to creating a fake TMZ stand-in led by a manic Will Arnett receiving pitches from the likes of Mike Birbiglia and Eric Andre. A great segment of the movie happens when multiple documentary crews all show up at the same awards show and everyone gets confused which cameras they're playing to.
It also lampoons Connor's enormous 32-person entourage, who include Justin Timberlake as his personal chef in the best part of the movie, and Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls) as a "perspective enhancer"-- a shorter guy who stands next to Connor at red carpet events so he looks taller.
Bill Hader also shows up all too briefly as a hapless guitar tech. And Maya Rudolph plays a self-important brand ambassador for an appliance company who wants to distribute Connor's next album with their high tech appliances. Shades of the backlash over U2's last album automatically downloading to iTunes are felt here as they only briefly stop to ask if that isn't creepy or an invasion of privacy.
While this film throws everything at the wall in the hope that some of it sticks, most of it does. Audiences may find themselves missing the next joke because they're laughing too hard at the last one, but you should enjoy yourself if you don't take it too seriously. . . and aren't offended by drugs, homophobia, or long, lingering shots of male genitalia. This isn't quite "This is Spinal Tap" level material, but it's close.
7.5 out of 10