If there’s many a slip between cup and lip, there must also be one from small screen sketch comedy to big screen. Many “Saturday Night Live” alumi have made the transition by playing the same character and attempting to expand his or her story into a two hour chunk of time that will absorb the viewer. Occasionally, they are successful (example: “Wayne’s World, which even spawned a sequel), but often fail abysmally because some things are funniest in small doses. Andy Samberg is perhaps to be commended for not doing this in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” but on the other hand, his role of boy band member to single musician, Connor 4Ever, is something of a cipher, so it’s easy to see him as basically Andy Samberg doing a bunch of his funny raps. To be fair, though, most of the songs performed in the movie are amusing.
“Popstar” is shot like a mock-documentary, and the beginning is mostly real musicians being interviewed and saying straight faced how Andy’s boy band “Style Boyz” changed their lives. The other two members are played by Jorma Taccone, who later becomes Andy’s DJ, and Akiva Schaffer, who drops out of the music business when the band breaks up to live closer to the land. However, Andy’s career takes off when he goes solo (even with Akiva’s muttering about plagiarism), and his entourage expands to the point where he has about 40 people on his payroll, including Deb-bor-rah (Maya Rudolph) who handles merchandising deals, publicity agent (Sarah Silverman), two people to handle drug transactions, plus a guy whose job is to stand next to Andy at public events to make him appear taller. Andy also has a pet turtle named Maximus, a mom whose life is her son’s career, a dead father (but apparently no father issues) and a manager (Tim Meadows) an ex-boy band member of a sort. When the movie opens, shortly before he releases a long-awaited album, Andy has a cozy relationship with his fans (“It’s like they’re making love to me. And the stage is a bed,” he explains in one of his interview clips) and keeps them updated on everything from his lunch order to when he gets his butt waxed. Although he’s familiar with the typical pop star career trajectory, he has no reason to think he’s about to spiral downward.
However, the album does not (gasp) get particularly good reviews – okay, there’s one, but it’s from the Onion, so it’s highly suspect. So Andy attempts a number of ways to boost and reinvent his image after a wardrobe malfunction causes him public humiliation, including getting a fiancée (Imogen Poots, whose childhood dream was to be one half of a celebrity couple). But things go from bad to worse, and he’s forced to go to even more degrading extremes like making Jorma wear a robot head onstage and teaming up with “star of the future” rapper (Chris Redd). Still, his bad fortune continues, which paves the way for making up with Akiva, giving him proper credit and learning a valuable lesson about treating one’s friends right.
“Popstar,” isn’t long enough to really wear out its welcome, and it does have a lot of snarky and on-target things to say about the pop music industry (though I think it’s an easy target). The music numbers are hilarious, and it’s fun to see the SNL cameos and ones by actual musicians. Unlike its star, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a good thing. Now if only future solo musicians would watch it as a cautionary tale.