[Screen It]


(2016) (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone) (R)

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Comedy: A documentary follows the fallout of a disastrous sophomore album from a solo singer who was once part of a famous boy band.
In this faux documentary, Conner (ANDY SAMBERG), Owen (JORMA TACCONE) and Lawrence (AKIVA SCHAFFER) grew up as best friends and formed the wildly successful and popular boy band, The Style Boyz. But when Conner later took credit for all of their success, the band split up. While Lawrence eventually became a farmer, Conner refashioned himself as the solo performer Conner4real, hired Owen as his deejay, and took the world by storm with his debut album release. With his sophomore debut in the queue, his team -- including manager Harry (TIM MEADOWS), publicist Paula (SARAH SILVERMAN) and members of his entourage such as Sponge (JAMES BUCKLEY) -- is working overtime to make sure it's as big of a success as the last record.

But when it flops and gets bad reviews, Conner's world starts to unravel. Following a disastrous on-stage stunt that goes wildly wrong, Conner's team suggests he publicly propose to his girlfriend, Ashley (IMOGEN POOTS), but even that backfires. As does the hiring of profane rapper Hunter the Hungry (CHRIS REDD) as his tour's opening act, only because he ends up surpassing Conner's popularity. From that point on, and as things keep falling apart all around him, Conner and those left on his side try to figure out a way to save his career before it's too late.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Whenever I see that a current or former "Saturday Night Live" performer is headlining a comedy movie headed for theaters, my red flag warnings immediately go up. And that's because the history of cinema -- at least since "SNL" arrived on the scene decades ago -- has been littered with plenty of skits from that show that were turned into feature length films, more often than not unsuccessfully so.

Granted, some of their standalone pics that weren't based on previous skits have worked -- Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop" and Mike Myers' "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" come to mind -- but people versed in skit comedy don't always have what it takes to transition into a different and decidedly more difficult media format.

Andy Samberg proved that back in 2007 as the lead in the critical and box office flop "Hot Rod." Undeterred, he's giving it a go again after a bunch of subsequent supporting roles, a co-lead in the little-seen "Celeste and Jesse Forever," the lead in TV's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and, of course, all those years on "SNL."

His return to the lead in a comedy arrives in "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," a mockumentary poking fun at the likes of the Justin Bieber documentary "Never Say Never." With a track record of creating a number of catchy songs in his short films that appeared on "SNL," Samberg would seem to be the right guy to pull this off.

Working from a script he co-penned with the film's co-directors Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone -- who also appear in the movie as the solo performer's former boy-band bandmates, and who collectively make up the comedy troupe The Lonely Island -- Samberg plays an egotistical pop star who's about to drop his sophomore album.

As the unseen documentary crew follows him around -- with interviews of real-life music industry insiders ranging from Usher and Adam Levine to Simon Cowell and Ringo Starr talking about Conner4Real and his music -- things immediately head south when the public doesn't buy it in droves and the critics drub it (except for the writer from The Onion).

If you get that last joke, you'll likely enjoy all or at least some of the pic that runs a tight 86-some minutes and packs lots of attempted humor in that allotted period. As in any such flick, some of the material sticks and works while others miss and fail, and the ratio of that lessens as the film rounds the midway point and sort of limps home.

No, this isn't the second coming of "This is Spinal Tap," a somewhat similarly constructed comedy from more than thirty years ago that went after the same sort of comedy based on performers' egos and behavior, but did so more consistently. Back in 2002, that Rob Reiner film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. I highly doubt the same will occur with this flick.

That said, and as long as you don't mind the often decidedly adult humor and R-rated comedy, there are plenty of laughs to be had, both big and small at various points as the story follows the solo performer's career heading down the drain.

They do end up getting a bit repetitive, though (such as some recurring riffs on the show TMZ and its cast). And as things play out, you sort of get the feeling this might have worked better as a recurring skit where the material could be tighter and, natch, significantly shorter.

Even so, I laughed enough times to give "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" the slightest of recommendations. This comedy rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 31, 2016 / Posted June 3, 2016

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