“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” never should have started.
The movie’s uninspired plot about a rapper who struggles with his second album has enough material to fill a three-minute sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” And even then, there would be about a minute of failed comedy.
Andy Samberg, a poor man’s Adam Sandler, plays Conner, one of the founding members of the boy band Style Boyz. Creative differences and the solo success of Conner ends the group. Conner – now known as Conner4Real – becomes as big as Justin Bieber with his first album.
Conner4Real’s success takes a crashing nosedive after the second album is released in a cloud of controversy and apathy. Conner must deal with no longer being the center of attention in the rap world as he goes on tour to promote the release.
Directors Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (who also star in the movie as the other Style Boyz) use the mockumentary format to tell the story. This is their only good decision as it opens the door for some very funny cameo appearances from major music stars such as Ringo Starr, Carrie Underwood and Pink.
Hearing Mariah Carey talk about being the most humble person she knows is brilliant comedy. There are also very funny moments from Seal, Usher and Snoop Dogg. Justin Timberlake has a very small role in the film, but he gets so much out of his scenes that it shows how the movie would have been vastly better had he been the star.
The failed efforts of the main players in “Popstar” to be funny overshadows the humor that comes from the cameos.
These cameos offer laughs sprinkled throughout the production. But the directors are not as gifted as Christopher Guest, who has set the bar for this type of fake documentary. Guest hasn’t needed cameo appearances to generate laughs for movies like “Best In Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” His approach has been to put together a group of core actors so talented, they could read an obituary and make it sound funny.
Too bad the main players in “Popstar” are devoid of that kind of talent. Their failed efforts to be funny overwhelm the humor that comes from the cameos.
It starts with Samberg taking on a similar role to the one Jamie Kennedy played in the monstrous 2003 flop, “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” This latest attempt to find humor at the expense of the music industry should have been easier. Kennedy didn’t have Bieber to parody when he made his movie, something Samberg does heavily. Even with what should have been an easier path to laughs, Samberg’s work ends up flat.
Samberg has no one to blame – he and the two directors wrote the script. The closest they come to finding the kind of crisp humor that makes this kind of film work is a jab they make at TMZ. Nothing else even comes close. The fact that all three star in the movie shows that their focus was split, creating the humor clunkers.
“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” offers no insight into the music world, fails to create any interesting characters, uses music that sounds like variations on the work Samberg did on “Saturday Night Live,” and never finds the kind of snappy commentary that makes the mockumentary style so brilliant. All the film does is give Samberg a chance to mug for the camera and show that he’s much better in small doses.
Very small doses.
With him at the heart of “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” it’s easy now to know the day the music died.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
1/2 ☆ (half-star)
Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots
Directors: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Rating: R (graphic nudity, language, sexual content, drug use)
Opens: Friday, June 3