Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman, Chris Redd
Plot: Connor4Real (Samberg) is an egotistical pop star whose ratings are dropping drastically, prompting him to cling to fame that much harder.
You have to be a pretty cold-hearted person to dislike The Lonely Island. Back in their early days, they were the small independent comedians who made it big time (one of the first acts to make something of online video sites like Youtube). They had charm, humour and the intelligence to be more than three jokers goofing around. As their popularity climbed, they didn’t peter out, only upping their game to crazier and crazier levels. You get the impression that trio Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer aren’t bothered about cramming out as much content as possible, taking the time to perfect their material before releasing it. While their breakout hit, ‘I Jizzed In My Pants’ was a comedy powerhouse, somehow they exceeded it with ‘I Just Had Sex’. And they never showed any signs of making a U-Turn on their ascent, Samberg taking time off to win over a larger audience with the lead role in Brooklyn Nine Nine and now this feature film effort from the comedy group, a mockumentary borrowing the comedy style of the iconic This Is Spinal Tap.
This isn’t The Lonely Island’s first attempt at breaking into the feature film business, but Hot Rod is best left forgotten, the stars ambitiously taking a step too far too early. There is something far more confident with Popstar – Never Stop Never Stopping. For one, it is a very simplistic tale, basically a reworking of the Lonely Island characters and broken down into a tale of broken friendships. The three members of Lonely Island are now The Style Boyz, a nerdy group of wannabe stars that rose to fame years previous to the story. However, as success poured in, Samberg’s simple-minded and arrogant lead singer became corrupted by the stardom and broke away into a solo career. Jorma Taccone was relegated to DJ status (he clicks a button on an iPod), and Schaffer, claiming that he wrote the lyrics that took Samberg to celebrity status, exiles himself to a farm, where he whittles terrible figurines and moans about his past. The documentary format that the film uses kicks off, recounting this past and preparing for the second album from Connor4Real. Unsurprisingly as the film introduces us to Samberg’s out-of-touch, dim-witted hero, the album flops dramatically. Cue Lonely Island charting Samberg’s journey through a failing tour, as he struggles to cling to his past successes, his methods getting sillier and sillier. The best thing about Samberg’s oversharing on vlogs, dating scandals and headline faux-pas is that, other than a few swerves into utter ridiculousness, is that they are terrifyingly plausible. As a cheesy magic trick in Connor’s tour goes wrong, leaving him naked on stage occurs, it feels like the kind of media debacle that wouldn’t be world’s away from something that could happen in a week’s time. The EDM jokes, as Connor tries to find a new genre to win fans over, are pretty much copied from actual tours happening right now, the silliness simply needed to be caught on camera rather than being written.
To a point, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is very easy humour. As the mockumentary format opens, cutting to several real life stars commenting on this fictional superstar, it does give the impression that Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer have simply opened up their phonebook and called in every favour they could. You can play a pretty extensive game of Lonely Island bingo here, guessing which past collaborations are getting a cameo appearance. Justin Timberlake is a bullied chef. Maroon 5 lend some vocals. Michael Bolton! There are certain jokes that feel very guilty of simply being funny because someone famous is saying them. But then again, that has been Lonely Island’s style from the beginning. Besides, there are some celebrity cameos that are wonderfully well-written and provide a great gag (Seal almost steals the show). The end result is a comfortably funny feature film from comedians we have been waiting for too long to see. It is great to have them back, especially as Popstar starts wrapping up and we get the emotional finale. It is the kind of soppy ending that you can see from a mile away – just reading this review will probably be enough to arm you with an educated guess – but it still lands a smile on your face, sending the film out with a great song and cheesy grins.
Final Verdict: The Lonely Island gang are definitely playing it safe here, but as joke after joke lands, you won’t mind too much.