REVIEW: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

7 06 2016

Comedy teams rarely come in trios. We have the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges … and maybe the Wolfpack from “The Hangover” trilogy, if one is feeling generous and contemporary. Otherwise, the duo, the pairs, the buddies or whatever you call them rule the day. It makes sense given how hard developing and maintaining comedic synergy between two people can be. Adding a third person turns a game of catch into a bout of juggling.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” shows more than ever that The Lonely Island can juggle, albeit maybe more with clubs and scarves than swords or fire. The comedy group burst onto the cultural scene over a decade and essentially dragged sketch comedy into the Internet viral video era. After producing countless short musical sensations with their SNL Digital Shorts, they finally put their energies towards a more conventional vehicle – a feature film of their very own. (Not counting 2007’s “Hot Rod,” which they reworked from a script originally intended for Will Ferrell.)

The Lonely Island might be at their peak form when producing episodic, concentrated shorts, though becoming aware of this fact does not lessen the pleasures of “Popstar” in the slightest. The film holds together quite nicely as a piece with a forward-moving narrative engine all of its own, not merely a collection of sketch-like bits and musical numbers. The wacky invented boy band frontman-turned-rapper Conner4Real (played by Andy Samberg) shows they know quite a bit about the contours of modern pop stardom, although they poke fun at it far more in this mockumentary than they point out its hollowness.

But the real marvel of “Popstar” is not their understanding of pop culture. It’s their understanding of themselves.

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REVIEW: The Watch

30 07 2012

The post-Spielberg generation of fanboy filmmakers has a few things to learn.  I’m talking about the boys who grew up thinking that Indiana Jones is the slickest hero ever, E.T. is the most benevolent force in the universe, and the alien coming out of John Hurt’s chest in “Alien” is the scariest thing in the world.  They’re coming of age now, and their paying homage to their myth-maker.

We saw the first extreme homage in last summer’s “Super 8,” J.J. Abrams’ pleasant trip down ’80s memory lane that ultimately rips off more than it can chew.  Now, one of the members of The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer, is here to give us his Spielberg tribute with “The Watch.”  It’s less of a carbon copy and more tongue-in-cheek parody, but that still doesn’t make its rancid treatment of Spielberg’s hallowed material any less acceptable.

Even without its frequent invocation of the action-movie deity, “The Watch” would still have disappointed on comedic standards.  When I say I didn’t laugh once, I mean it.  No exaggeration.  I did smirk on one occasion, though: a cameo appearance by Andy Samberg.

It’s a failure from concept for writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whose résumés include the uproarious “Superbad” and the gut-wrenchingly hilarious “Pineapple Express.”  Unless that concept was to replicate the experience of being waterboarded, in which case congratulations are in order.  It’s time to screen this movie for the President, I’m sure he needs some new enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo (which is still open despite his first day in office pledge).

“Got protection,” the film’s slogan asks.  So I’d like to ask you to protect yourself and not see “The Watch.”  Some movies you can’t unwatch.  You can’t get that time back.

Protect yourself from yet another Ben Stiller uptight straight-man grating on your last nerve; let’s be real, that one was already getting dated back in 2004’s “Along Came Polly.”  Protect yourself from the latest iteration of the Vince Vaughn sassily obstreperous man-child.  Protect yourself from a reprisal of Jonah Hill’s disturbed character from “Cyrus” that is reborn here totally humorless.  Protect yourself from the self’-conscious tokenism casting of Richard Ayoade, which ultimately devolves into outright racism.  To use the obvious pun, don’t watch “The Watch.”  Pop “E.T.” into the DVD player for a twentieth viewing.  D