PLOT An arrogant pop singer is brought low when his latest album flops.
CAST Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
RATED R (crude humor and language)
BOTTOM LINE The Lonely Island’s mock music documentary has a few funny moments, but probably not much viral-video potential.
Despite its name, the comedy trio The Lonely Island is surrounded by famous friends. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer are superb satirists of pop music’s inherent inanity, but their cleverest move has been to let the pop stars in on the joke. “[Expletive] in a Box,” their hilariously crass song and Emmy-winning video from 2006, turned The Lonely Island into celebrities precisely because it featured a real celebrity, Justin Timberlake, gamely tweaking his slick-and-sexy persona.
Timberlake appears, very briefly, in The Lonely Island’s second feature, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.” It’s a mock music documentary starring Samberg as singer Conner4Real, who left his rap trio, The Style Boyz, for a relentlessly auto-tuned solo career. When his new album, “CONNquest,” proves an embarrassing flop, Conner must find a way to recover.
Written by Samberg with Schaffer and Taccone, who directed the film (they’re also very likable as Conner’s ill-treated friends), “Popstar” is basically a hit-and-miss collection of would-be Lonely Island videos: a willfully dumb rap track (“Things in My Jeep”), a ballad comparing sex to Osama bin Laden’s assassination, a song about how unimpressive the Mona Lisa is. The film’s actual characters are few and far between: Tim Meadows plays Conner’s beleaguered manager, while Sarah Silverman plays a chirpy publicist. She gets the film’s sharpest line: “Conner’s music isn’t the kind of thing I would listen to. But it makes so many people money.”
That’s as close to wicked satire as this movie comes. “Popstar” goofs and riffs on celebrity, but it’s packed with too many actual ones — Questlove, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, A$AP Rocky, Ringo Starr — to risk skewering anybody. Few of these stars say anything funny; mostly they just donate a few quotes to show what good sports they are. And why wouldn’t they be?
“Popstar” isn’t nearly as funny as the classic mock-doc it imitates, the genre-defining “This Is Spinal Tap,” nor as deep-digging as the fake biopic “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (which also starred Meadows). It’s about as briefly entertaining and disposable as the music it spoofs.