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popstar1

via artnalism.com

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a mockumentary about a musician struggling with life at the top of his industry, starring Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, and Imogen Poots.

Prior to seeing this film I was on board; I thought the trailer was great, I love The Lonely Island, and I like comedic musicals. In fact, very recently I saw “David Brent: Life on the Road” and I had a really good time! I came out of the theatre singing the songs and I got a kick out of the thought that somebody actually had to write them, so I was more than ready to have a laugh watching Andy Samberg do his thing for ninety minutes.

However, the film I ended up seeing fell massively short of my expectations. Still, I should preface the inevitable criticism that I’m about to deliver with the warning that my expectations were very high going in. Throughout secondary school I was singing Jizz In My Pants, I’m On A Boat, and Like A Boss all the time, so I was expecting “Popstar” to be right up my street and appeal to my sensibilities. When it didn’t I was surprised and disappointed, so that probably made it seem worse in the moment than it actually was, but I can only give my opinion on how I felt about the film when watching it.

The first thing I’ll say about “Popstar” is that I didn’t like the songs that Conner 4 Real (Andy Samberg) was singing. Obviously when I say that, I don’t mean that in the real world they wouldn’t be good songs, (because anybody with a brain could tell you that), rather, I mean that I didn’t think that they were funny.

The songs in this film were meant to be a reflection of the pop industry, because although Conner intended to be genuine with his lyrics and sing about important issues, he ended up creating an album full of songs which were either meaningless, offensive, or both. This goal on the part of the filmmakers was realised, as it was clear that they were poking fun at artists in the real world who try to seem deep when in actual fact they’re entitled morons spouting nonsense to other morons, but it didn’t really translate that well on screen. Songs like Humble and Equal Rights worked well, but others just felt dumb and became boring because too much effort had gone into making them sound idiotic. For the songs in this film to be funny they needed to seem as though they would almost be passable in the real world, (like songs you might hear from Pitbull or Miley Cyrus), but most of them ended up sounding like gobbledygook.

My favourite musical satire film is “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”, which is basically about the life and musical career of the titular character (Dewey Cox, played by John C. Reilly). The film itself is a lot like this one, as Dewey would never have made it in the real world but in the movie’s universe he’s a superstar – his songs are riddled with ridiculous lines and he’s a drug-addled idiot who cut his brother in half with a machete, but he made it based on his charisma and skill.

However, “Walk Hard” separates itself from the competition by having an amazing soundtrack in which the songs almost sound normal, to the point where if they were playing on the radio and you weren’t listening to the lyrics you might not notice anything strange. This is largely because they’re based on real songs sung by legends of the industry like Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan, but the point remains that for a film about music to be successful the songs have to be memorable. They have to be the best aspect of the film – the thing that you remember when you leave the theatre – and if they aren’t then the movie really hasn’t done its job. Sadly, as far as “Popstar” is concerned the songs are the weakest aspect of the movie, and ultimately I feel that this is why it failed to entertain me.

Films of this ilk need to be ‘smart stupid’ – they need to give off the appearance of immaturity whilst doing something interesting below the surface – but this film doesn’t do that. It wants to give a commentary on the pop music industry whilst still being a stoner-comedy, but it ends up being neither because it isn’t insightful or entertaining! I didn’t laugh out loud once!

The funniest moments in the film are those involving cameos from other artists/actors; for example, Seal appears at about the halfway point in the film to serenade Conner and his girlfriend Ashley (Imogen Poots) as the former is about to propose. This would be entertaining enough by itself, but add in a pack of howling wolves and one hilarious punchline and you have the best scene in the film. Still, the scene itself wasn’t funny to the point that it made me laugh uncontrollably, it just made me chuckle to myself because I know who Seal is and I remember listening to Kiss From a Rose when I was a kid. Moreover, not everybody in the audience will even be familiar with Seal, as the film is only rated as a 15!

Despite the fact that I had a lot of issues with this movie, I did enjoy the fact that it gave nods to what The Lonely Island have done in the past, particularly their collaborations with Michael Bolton and Justin Timberlake. These cameos felt like a little wink to the audience and they made me smile, but being a fan of Andy Samberg’s previous work isn’t a prerequisite for wanting to see this movie, so these moments won’t resonate with the entirety of the audience.

On the whole I would say that “Popstar” was an abundantly average movie, particularly given the fact that there are other comedies in cinemas right now which I found more entertaining, such as “Bad Moms”. In my opinion, “Popstar” would’ve been a better film had it simply been about The Lonely Island, because at various junctures it feels as though that’s the movie that the filmmakers wanted to make. For my money a pseudo-documentary on the group would’ve made for far more compelling viewing, as real-life footage of SNL skits and music videos could’ve been used alongside new songs created solely for the film. The same audience would’ve been attracted and newcomers would’ve had the chance to experience what The Lonely Island have already done, thus experiencing songs and sketches which are undoubtedly better than the ones in this movie.

5.5/10

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