POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING
** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Jorma Taccone & Akiva Schaffer
STARS Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone
Andy Samberg in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Photo: Universal)
When setting one's sights on a large and easy target that lends itself to ridicule — say, sleazy evangelists or Tea Party nutjobs or flash-in-the-pan boy bands — the satire has to be particularly sharp and the commentary especially astute; otherwise, it's all too unchallenging, all too facile, and all too forgettable. The mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping immediately falls victim to the obviousness and thereafter only works in small bursts of wit and wisdom. Forget about not being able to hit the side of a barn with a basketball; too often, there's the sense that the team of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer couldn't hit a basketball with the side of a barn.
The three play the members of Style Boyz, a promising boy band that almost immediately gets derailed due to internal squabbles. Conner (Samberg), the group leader, is able to advance and become a superstar known as Conner4Real. As for the other Style Boyz, Owen (Taccone) becomes Conner's underutilized concert DJ while Lawrence (Schaffer) opts to quit show business altogether and try his hand at farming. Coming off a smash debut album, Conner expects equally great things from his sophomore effort; alas, it proves to be a critical and commercial bomb, and every p.r. stunt he performs in an effort to boost sales backfires spectacularly.
There are a few modest chuckles sprinkled throughout Popstar, but few have sticking power, and certainly nothing compares to the knowing laughs offered in Christopher Guest's string of celebrated mockumentaries. The failure of Conner's second album sets up some amusing vignettes, although, truthfully, the comparable segments in Get Him to the Greek, when Russell Brand's rocker character Aldous Snow gets lambasted following the disastrous release of his album African Child, are far more amusing than anything in the entirety of this film. Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer are all earnest if not especially funny, but Tim Meadows has some nice moments as the lads' manager. The cameo appearances by celebrities playing themselves arrive at a furious clip — yes, it's time to cue the snoozy likes of Simon Cowell and Jimmy Fallon, although Snoop Dog and Seal offer some fleeting amusement.
Some susceptible scribes have already been describing Popstar as "the new This is Spinal Tap," I suppose in an effort to raise the likelihood of having a quote on the eventual DVD and Blu-ray cases. Don't believe it for one second. Spinal Tap was able to turn the knob up to 11 — with Popstar, 4 on the dial is the best one can reasonably expect.