There’s a problem with “Popstar: Never Stop Stopping.” It’s attempting to mock something that is beyond mockery.
As the title indicates, the target in its sights is a pop music icon. Played by Andy Samberg with all-over tats, reeking of preening narcissism, surrounded by brain-dead sycophants and worshipped by hysterical fans, the character, Conner4Real, is Justin Bieber, barely disguised.
An absurd figure in real life (though one hesitates to use the term “real” to describe that life), the young boy-man is himself a walking self-parody. And the absurdities dreamed up by Samberg and his longtime friends and creative collaborators, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, who co-directed the picture (all three share screenplay credit) are barely distinguishable from the actual circumstances of Bieber fever mania. It’s in the nature of shooting fish in a barrel, and where’s the fun in that?
The picture is a mockumentary that uses its Bieber clone to make a more generalized assault on music industry excesses and crassness. It’s a too-familiar tale about the rocket rise and the spiraling downfall of Conner, mixing in everything from garish stage shows, back-stabbing management and, above all, the disposability of old pal bandmates (played by Taccone and Schaffer) who are with him at the start and then kicked to the curb when he goes solo.
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Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer are all alums of “Saturday Night Live,” where they rose to fame on the strength of “Digital Shorts” they made under the name of The Lonely Island. Sketch comedy is their strength, but unfortunately that strength isn’t sufficient to sustain a full-length feature. “Popstar” certainly has its moments. A bit where a PR stunt involving crazed wolves and the singer Seal goes disastrously awry is a hoot. There are others, but there are way too many long arid stretches between the jokes. Example: a long, long sequence involving dog poop in pancakes.
Seal is only one of an army of celebs making cameo appearances in the picture, which is “Popstar’s” way of letting us know everyone in the industry is in on its joke. Every time one appears — Hey, it’s Pink! It’s Michael Bolton! It’s Snoop! — it’s like a hard dig in the ribs. Hey! This is funny! Get it? But thanks to deadening repetition of the gag, it’s not.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer.
Directors: Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer.
Running time: 1:26.
Rated: R, for for some graphic nudity, language throughout, sexual content and drug use.