By Chaz Lipp
Basically an excuse to showcase a bunch of new (and often very funny) songs by The Lonely Island, Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping is a major summer folly. The film stands little chance of making waves in this most-competitive of movie seasons. In fact, it probably should’ve been designated as a direct-to-video release as it will most likely find its audience in the home video market. The Lonely Island is the parody-based musical trio that includes Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone. They rose to fame during Samberg’s tenure on Saturday Night Live, with their “Digital Short” segments spawning major viral video hits like “Lazy Sunday” and “Dick In a Box.”
Make no mistake though, despite all three having featured roles in Pop Star, this is a Samberg showcase all the way. By now, the mockumentary style has been done to death. Co-directors Schaffer and Taccone bring nothing new to the hackneyed sub-genre. Pop Star boils down to a send-up of image-conscious, substance-deficient pop stars. No sense in naming names – if you can’t figure out who is being targeted at various points, Pop Star might fall somewhere outside your cultural radar. Samberg is Conner4real, former member of the boy band Style Boyz. When the group disbanded, Conner embarked upon an initially hot – but quickly fading – solo career. He retained Style Boyz’ DJ Owen (Taccone) but shunned the third member Lawrence (Schaffer).
Cameos abound, but rarely to good effect. Hearing stars like Carrie Underwood and Usher pretending to consider Conner4real and The Style Boyz to be significant artists wears thin almost from the get go. Pop Star jumps around from one soft target to the next. Individual bits – like Will Arnett as a fictionalized version of TMZ’s Harvey Levin – are funny in bite-sized doses. Again, the many featured Lonely Island songs contain the jokes that land the most soundly (“Mona Lisa” is a particular winner). The problem is, the songs’ satirical lyrics are far too sharp and pointed to believably be the work of Conner4real. As portrayed in the film, Conner is a clueless narcissist – not an acid-tongued critic of pop culture. The songs don’t fit the character.
Pop Star plays like a series of SNL bits strung together. Here’s an idea: get the soundtrack album instead.
Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping Images: Universal Pictures