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.

MacGruber

May 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe
Directed by: Jorma Taccone (debut)
Written by: Will Forte (“Extreme Movie”), Jorma Taccone (“Extreme Movie”), John Solomon (“Extreme Movie”)

It’s no secret that for the last 18 years film adaptations of “Saturday Night Live” skits have been as embarrassing for the long-running TV show as an Ashlee Simpson hoedown. From the pathetically unfunny gender-bending of “It’s Pat” to the irksomeness of Catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher in “Superstar,” not much of anything has worked since the original “Wayne’s World” hit theaters in 1992.

That might be the reason it’s taken “SNL” a whole decade to try again. The show’s last attempt was transferring the Courvoisier-drinking radio show host Leon Phelps to the big screen in 2000’s dreadful “The Ladies Man.” Ten years, however, seems to have made a world of difference. While it doesn’t mean much to call “MacGruber” one of the best “SNL” movies ever made (for obvious reasons), it’s still rather funny even on its own merit.

In “MacGruber,” comedian Will Forte stars as the title character, an American war hero whose impressive military resume is second to none (it includes 16 purple hearts, three Congressional Medals of Honor and seven presidential medals of bravery!). Laying low in Ecuador after the murder of his fiancée by his archenemy Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer), MacGruber is called back to action when Von Cunth (the name loses its luster after the third or fourth joke kind of like Alotta Fagina and Felicity Shagwell in the “Austin Powers” franchise) steals a nuclear warhead with plans to blow up Washington D.C.

After a major mishap with his first team of renegade soldiers, MacGruber enlists Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and his wife’s best friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) to help him avenge his fiancée’s death.

Based loosely on the 1980s TV show “MacGyver,” which followed the adventures of a resourceful secret agent working for the government, MacGruber doesn’t sport as many miscellaneous objects one would imagine him to have at all times. Instead, most of the gags in “MacGruber” come in hard rated-R form from multiple crass sex scenes to the occasional Ramboesque ripping out of a throat.

What makes “MacGruber” the most enjoyable, however, is how aware it is of its own stupidity, which often times makes for the best parody. While the movie might feel like a dragged out “SNL” skit at times, in this instance it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jokes might hit more often than not in first half and veer off in the second, but you can count on MacGruber to always have a few tricks up his plaid-patterned sleeves.