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Review: “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (R)

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Universal(NEW YORK) — The first 20 minutes of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping pack more than enough brilliant, mockumentary-style satire to convince us we may be watching the second-coming of 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap, the gold standard of music mockumentaries.

Turns out, the movie doesn’t quite live up to Spinal Tap, but it doesn’t need to because we’re talking about The Lonely Island — the three guys who gave us all of those brilliant digital shorts on Saturday Night Live: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.

Samberg plays Conner4Real, a former member of the boy band Style Boyz. His first solo album made him one of the biggest pop stars in the world and this “documentary” chronicles his efforts to follow up with a great sophomore album and a tour.  Connor is clearly based on Justin Bieber (mostly) and perhaps a few “reality” stars. His career starts to spiral out of control when he begins  to believe he’s more talented and more intelligent than he actually is.

Taccone and Schaffer co-directed the movie but they get significant screen time, too, which is a great thing. As Conner’s DJ and former bandmate Owen, Taccone elicits laughter just about every time he’s on screen. Schaffer is Lawrence, the third member of Style Boyz who had an irreparable rift with Connor, bought a farm and grew a beard. Not only is Schaffer perfect but he shows some real acting chops.

This movie also boasts an impressive list of cameos from Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, hip-hop legend Nas, and Martin Sheen, as well as SNL alums Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist, Maya Rudolph as a marketing rep for an appliance company, Tim Meadows as Conner’s manager, and Bill Hader as his guitar tech. All of them have laugh-out-loud moments.

There’s pretty much nothing Andy, Akiva and Jorma won’t do or say to make us laugh.  This movie’s biggest weakness is it struggles a bit to live up to the promise of the first 20 minutes, where they simply set the bar too high. But it doesn’t really matter: you’re going to laugh a lot.  Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a great time at the movies.

Four out of five stars.

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