“Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping” Movie Review


     Back in 2009, I don’t really remember how I first saw it, but when I did, I immediately realized The Lonely Island’s music video “Jizz In My Pants” was the kind of out of nowhere laugh out loud gut busting comedy we all crave from time to time.  And I told everyone who would listen how the $1.99 price on iTunes would end up being the absolute best purchase they would make all year.  The Lonely Island, a comedy music group featuring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, would go on to have massive success, both with their hilarious “Saturday Night Live” Digital Shorts, such as “Dick in the Box” and “Mother Lover”, as well as several hit albums which included the popular “Jack Sparrow” and “I’m on a Boat” singles.  Now well established within the minds of those who find their brand of humor funny, the trio has teamed up with uber producer Judd Apatow (“The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “Trainwreck”) for “Pop Star” Never Stop Never Stopping”, a mockumentary style film that takes full advantage of the group’s comedic talents, while also poking fun at practically every aspect of the music and entertainment industry.

     Written by Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone, “Pop Star” gleams with the overly extravagant lifestyles of those who are worshipped by millions as it chronicles the rise and fall of pop/rapper hybrid Connor 4 Real (Andy Samberg).  With both Schaffer and Taccone at the helm, Samberg is featured as the front and center character drawn as a cross between Justin Bieber and Vanilla Ice.  The film begins by catching us up to the present with an introduction to Conor’s roots as both a child musical prodigy and the birth of “The Style Boys”, a foul mouthed rapping boy band he forms with best friends Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer).  With a number of memorable hits, catchy tunes, and a popular dance number, the band becomes a sensation.  But the ever growing ego of Conor eventually would see him leave the band for a solo career, demoting his best friend Owen to an iPod toting DJ, and pushing Lawrence into isolation as a middle of nowhere farmer.

     Without a doubt, the best stuff from The Lonely Island has already been made by them, and their attempt here to somehow capture lightning in a bottle and populate a feature film with enough laughs to keep things interesting eventually falls flat.  The first 30 minutes or so are by far the best, as Conor is seen prepping for the release of his latest album after the last one was said to have sold over 4 million copies and turned him into an international star.  All of the excess that has somehow enveloped our society are on full display, with endless Tweeting, Snapchatting, and YouTubing to the point where we literally see every waking moment of Conor’s life.  Save to say, he shares way too much.  But the internet hits and clicks apparently keep on coming as he teases the debut of the album’s first single, which we see presented as a full length music video (a Lonely Island strength).  That video, a supposed endorsement by Conor in favor of gay rights, ends up being one of the funniest bits in the film.  I haven’t laughed that hard in some time.

     While Conor himself is certainly roasted following his every move, those who cover these larger than life personalities also get their fair share of ribbing.  Led by Will Arnett as a typically over the top “TMZ” type, the action frequently cuts to the familiar cubicle setting of that show (here referred to as “CMZ”) and features several bizarre, yet hilarious moments as these clowns gossip over everything from whether or not Conor actually has a penis to the validity of a lawsuit brought on by Seal following a proposal gone completely wrong.  And speaking of penis jokes, with this being an Apatow produced film, prepare yourself for his now standard overlong and uncomfortable shot of the male member which serves as an overused sight gag that seems to have run its course long ago with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”  As with most comedies of this sort, some of the situational stuff ends with roaring audience laughter, while most simply falls flat.  Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone’s script contains plenty of connective tissue in the form of scenes which exist just to glue the rest of it together and with this trio not exactly being the best of actors, the result is difficult to get through at times.

     Still though, there is plenty here to entertain for both fans of the group, as well as fans of the music industry in general.  Jon Billington’s production design effectively portrays the glitz and glamour of our biggest stars down to some of the most minute details, which match up perfectly with all of the pop star stereotypes we’ve come to know through the media that loves to cover and photograph them ad nauseam.  In addition, the filmmakers have lined up an impressive cast of cameos, some of who are playing themselves, while others step into characters who seem to be making fun of the people they actually are in real life.  There’s also a big helping of former SNL stars such as Maya Rudolph and Tim Meadows who, as always, bring a notable cookiness to the proceedings, as does a certain frequent Lonely Island collaborator playing Conor’s tour chef.  At its best, “Pop Star” will elicit several well earned laughs and generally remains entertaining throughout, but unfortunately is unable to capture the style and tone that made The Lonely Island so popular when they began to hit the mainstream some seven years ago.  GRADE: C+