My dear friend Taylor Raj is full of opinions. He's always going on about what he likes and doesn't like. Always rating things on a scale from one to ten. Finally, I lost my temper and said "God damn it, Taylor, if you've got so many opinions maybe you should just write reviews for my website ALSO THAT!"
And Taylor said "Okay."
I'm proud and pumped to share his very first review here on ALSO THAT.
I’ll start this review by saying that this was the first time in years I've left a movie and primarily negative thoughts swirled in my head. I openly admit that I laughed out loud at portions of Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping. I enjoyed the previous movie The Lonely Island (which is the name adopted by stars/directors/writers Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) group put out in 2007, Hot Rod, well enough. I even paid actual money for the first two Lonely Island albums. How could this movie have possibly left a bad taste in my mouth?
Popstar follows Samberg’s Conner “Conner4Real” Friel, a pop-music celebrity flailing through life after releasing a terrible and over-produced sophomoric album. Of course, Conner’s narcissism and ineptitude cause him to stumble into a spiral of poorer and poorer choices beget of its comedy movie format, culminating in his realization that maybe true friends are worth more than fame.
For a parody rap-group’s movie parodying the current state of pop music and trying to bring to mind Justin Biebers “Never Say Never” tour movie from 2011, you would expect the movie to have decent beats pumping out comedic lyrics for the entire movie. Instead, all but one song are distilled to twenty to thirty second clips that leaves the viewer wanting more. The only song that was played in full throughout the entire movie was the single “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)”, which had actually debuted on Saturday Night Live two weeks before. Unfortunately for the movie, the SNL music video is an objectively better watch than Popstar’s “dancing around on stage for a while” and the scene is hurt heavily by already knowing the hook of the track.
Another crux of the faux-documentary style format was the cameos. The likes of Justin Timberlake, Usher, Mariah Carrey, Snoop Dog, and even a fleeting glimpse of Weird Al Yankovic were each used in quite humorous ways; you could see the actors enjoying their roles and delivering laughs. Danger Mouse, Arcade Fire, Questlove, and Ringo Starr, on the other hand, made phoned-in efforts for throw-away cameos in what seems to be a vague attempt to garner respect from the viewer. “Oh, they booked (X) for this movie” even though they added nothing of content, not even a chuckle between them all. DJ Khaled should be celebrated in-that he was on-screen for a total of forty-five seconds and only spouted one of his stale tagline/memes once; Spoiler Alert: it was “you played yourself.”
So where’s the problem? A few misused celebrities when the cameos were almost filling the film to burst in the first place isn’t enough to subtract if the jokes are hilarious, and again, some of them are. The issue is that the script forces all of the jokes to become stale after numerous repetitions and reuse. Hilarious jabs at celebrity rumor-mill TMZ (referred to as ‘CMZ’ in the film) hit hard as Will Arnett and Eric Andre chew the scenery during the first two iterations but ultimately falls flat on it’s third bit. A “maybe I did do it… or maybe I didn’t… but I probably did…” ad nausem joke actually goes on for around a full minute. The entire proposal scene crowning with Seal being attacked by wolves adds not a second more of footage than that which was shown perpetually as THE SCENE for TV and YouTube ad spots.
And in that lies the answer. Popstar finds Samberg & crew once again breaking their normal 3-4 minute long skit formatting that was so popularized by the group via SNL’s Digital Shorts like “I Just Had Sex” and “I’m On a Boat.” The shorter format calls for every second to be packed to the gills with visual humor, scrupulously edited to be punchy and concise, and that catapults the videos to viral status. There’s no time for repetition and down-time. Instead, the group’s directing/writing/starring/producing quadruple-threat efforts ends up exhausting the documentary style tropes over the ninety minute run time and leaving the viewer feeling drained as well.
Ultimately, I recommend that people wait until the best/watchable portions of this movie are severed from the rest in four or five months when clips begin hitting YouTube, and stay optimistic that The Lonely Island will craft more digital shorts (with increased effort) in the meantime. There are laughs for sure, but they’re not worth sitting through ninety minutes and $12 to get to.