Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

June 4, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
Directed by: Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”) and Akiva Schaffer (“The Watch”)
Written by: Andy Samberg (“Extreme Movie”), Jorma Taccone (“MacGruber”), Akiva Schaffer (“Extreme Movie”)

Since the mid-2000’s, the comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, also known as “The Lonely Island,” have been slowly building their comedy empire. With their music video for “Lazy Sunday,” their SNL digital shorts single-handedly ushered “Saturday Night Live” into the digital age. From there, their musical prowess only grew stronger, capitalizing on the success with the Justin Timberlake-featured “Dick in a Box,” which blew up on the internet and led to a rap album. Several Grammy nominations later, The Lonely Island have produced several respectable albums, and Samberg has gone on to star in several movies and TV shows, with Schaffer and Taccone having writing/directing careers of their own. Though the three collaborated on the film “Hot Rod,” “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” marks their first time the comedy trio has had full creative control of a film project.

Taking the mockumentary format, “Popstar” tells the story of Conner4Real (Samberg), a solo pop-artist who gained fame with a group called The Style Boyz. After a tumultuous break-up, Conner and fellow Style Boy Owen (Taccone) branch off for Conner’s solo career, which has the potential to become massive. After his follow-up album is a universally hated, however, Conner must go on tour to try to save his career.

As the first full-fledged Lonely Island film, it was to be expected that music would be a major component. While the music of The Lonely Island has been consistently hilarious, the music in “Popstar” is extremely hit or miss. The best of the bunch is a gay rights activism song, a tune that somewhat mocks Mackelmore’s “Same Love” by showing support for gay rights while making it 100 percent abundantly clear that the artist himself is not gay. Other songs, however, rely to heavily on the mish mashing and smashing together of random, unconnected words and fail to register as truly funny.

As a send up of the music industry, “Popstar” is at its best when it is making specific, pointed jokes at the expense of its ridiculousness. A recurring plot line of Conner’s songs being released through all appliances is a really funny take on Apple causing an internet firestorm by putting the latest U2 album on everyone’s devices without permission. The rest of the film, however, feels a bit aimless and far too reliant on cameos, to the point where it feels slapped together and discombobulated.

That isn’t to say that “Popstar” doesn’t have its moments of hilarity. Moreso than the silliness of Conner’s lifestyle, the funniest moments of the film come at the expense of off-hand comments or throwaway lines. Schaffer, in particular, steals virtually every scene he is in, while people like Tim Meadows get in a handful of really funny lines.

The Lonely Island have always been known for their absurdity, but the film could have used a bit more subtlety as it serves as a quasi-parody of the music industry. These guys have musical chops, and are unquestionably super funny. The fact remains, however, that despite some decent laughs, “Popstar” never fully comes together.

Celeste and Jesse Forever

August 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina
Directed by: Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”)
Written by: Rashida Jones (debut) and Will McCormack (debut)

As someone who loathes the conventions and clichés of most modern-day romantic comedies as much as I do, actress/writer/producer Rashida Jones (TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) just might be the perfect woman — at least the perfect woman to spend a day with at the movie theater. Suggest watching something where Katherine Hiegl flips her hair, stumbles around in heels, and falls for a hitman, and she probably wouldn’t be shy about rolling her eyes at the idea.

In the independent rom-com “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay with actor Will McCormack (TV’s “In Plain Sight”), seems to have made a concerted effort with him to avoid what makes many of these boy-meets-girl narratives feel exactly like the one that came before it. “C&JF” isn’t flawless in its attempt by any means, but with some clever dialogue that doesn’t overload on adorableness and an honest performance by Jones herself, there’s enough proof here to believe the genre doesn’t always have to feature a pre-packaged love story.

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (“The Vicious Kind”), “C&JF” stars Jones and Andy Samberg (“That’s My Boy”) as the title couple going through a divorce but attempting to save the friendship. As a successful marketing trends partner, Celeste has always quietly disapproved of Jesse’s starving-artist lifestyle. “He doesn’t have a checking account or dress shoes,” she criticizes. When both start dating again, the two must come to terms with their break-up by letting go of one another and moving on with their lives.

While the set up sounds like somewhat of a network sitcom, the script takes some unique angles at familiar situations and allows the nerdy chemistry between its leads to play out naturally. Not all rom-coms have to be “When Harry Met Sally” or “Annie Hall,” but it’s nice when they don’t make it a point to be the exact opposite.

That’s My Boy

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester
Directed by: Sean Anders (“Sex Drive”)
Written by: David Caspe (debut)

A good chunk of 2009’s “Funny People” seemed intent on shaming star Adam Sandler for filling the decade since the release of “The Wedding Singer” with terrible, terrible movies. From the pen of old friend Judd Apatow, Sandler’s character ended up a thinly-veiled version of the man himself: an insanely rich and popular actor who drifted away from his sharp stand-up comedy roots to headline juvenile box office hits. The fake movies that Apatow cooked up for “Funny People” were all eerily plausible Sandler movies from another dimension, with titles like “MerMan” and “My Best Friend is a Robot.” While this might have been a turning point in Sandler’s career – a public moment of reflection from a creatively-bankrupt mega-star – it instead seemed to have just been a brainstorming session. Sandler regressed immediately, following up with high concept garbage like “Just Go With It” and “Jack and Jill.”

There are glimmers of hope that part of the message got through, however, in Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.” Sandler plays Donny Berger, a 40-something Boston burnout coasting on the skeevy fame he acquired in his early teens from having sex with his insanely attractive math teacher Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri). When the inappropriate relationship results in a pregnancy, Donny is left to raise the child alone as an incredibly irresponsible teenager. Fast forward 27 years: Donny is broke and owes the IRS nearly $50,000 while his estranged son Todd (Andy Samberg) is preparing for his wedding to fiancé Jamie (Leighton Meester) and telling everyone his parents died in an horrific explosion. A desperate Donny makes a deal with sleazebag talk show host Randall Morgan (former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick): reunite Todd with his mother in prison on television and earn enough money to settle his debts and avoid prison himself. Donny throws himself into the wedding, sending the straight-laced Todd spiraling back into a troubled childhood he’s tried hard to forget.

“That’s My Boy” begins with director Sean Anders (of the underappreciated “Sex Drive”) merely filling the chair for longtime Sandler director Dennis Dugan, a duty which includes indulging Sandler’s seemingly random desire to play Berger with a wicked broad Boston accent and casting long-time Sandler associates Blake Clark and Nick Swardson in supporting roles (Rob Schnieder, though, is thankfully absent). The film lumbers through its over-long setup, with the student-teacher sexual relationship serving as nothing more than a somewhat realistic reason for someone as young as Sandler to have a son as old as Samberg. The present day scene-setting doesn’t fare much better, introducing the goofy wedding guests like ’70s singer Tony Orlando and a horny grandma that plays like a microwaved knock-off of the weirdo guests in “The Wedding Singer.” But when it’s time for the bachelor party, Anders cuts loose and lets straight man Samberg be led down a path of hilarious debauchery by Sandler and a scene-stealing Vanilla Ice, playing an exaggerated version of himself. The film embraces its R-rating, indulging in cursing and nudity while re-sharpening the fangs Sandler had seemingly dulled with years and years of PG-13 pabulum.

Is it stupid? Yes. Is it funny? Absolutely. And in 2012, that counts as a win for Adam Sandler.

Space Chimps

July 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Daniels
Directed by: Kirk De Micco (debut)
Written by: Kirk De Micco (“Racing Stripes”)

The year was a perfect three for three in commendable animated features with “Horton Hears a Who,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “WALL-E” leading the way. Leave it up to a bunch of dirty apes to devolve the genre in less than two hours.

In “Space Chimps,” a circus performing chimp named Ham III (voiced by Andy Samberg), is recruited by NASA to go on a mission through space far too dangerous for human astronauts to travel. As the grandson of the first chimpanzee launched into space, Ham is bound by his bloodline to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, although he would much rather be launched from a canon under the big top.

Although he has reservations about the trip, Ham is tricked into going with fellow simian astronauts Luna (Cheryl Hinds) and Titan (Patrick Warburton) into a wormhole that leads to a planet where the dreadful dictator Zartog (Jeff Daniels) has taken control of his Teletubbie-looking citizens and is making them do hard labor.

Unrefined and poorly generated, “Space Chimps” isn’t what most would consider quality animation. Written by Kirk De Micco, there are far too many “is this mic on?” moments where jokes fall flat and all that’s left are monkey and evolution puns to fill the substandard work by Vanguard Animation. We’re not asking everyone to be Pixar, now, but not everything has to be dumb down just because it’s rated G.