Movie review: Parody of "Popstar" stretches good idea on for way too long

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

During a time when "Saturday Night Live" was in the early stages of a steady decline - one which seems to continue to this day - one of its saving graces was the advent of the SNL Digital Short and the creative team behind it, the Lonely Island.

"Lazy Sunday," Natalie Portman's hardcore rap turn, and Andy Samberg-led scatological earworms like "Dick in a Box" and "Jizz in my Pants" became the highlight of each week's show. They also made a convincing case to not sit through the increasingly lopsided episodes and just wait to see what clips would go viral after the fact.

Samberg and Lonely Island pals Akiva Schaffer (who directed the vast majority of the Digital Shorts) and Jorma Taccone made a leap to the big screen in the wake of their breakout with 2007's "Hot Rod." Their new movie, "Popstar" (subtitle: "Never Stop Never Stopping"), is far more in the wheelhouse of the Lonely Island, but it's still got some issues with the leap from short to feature.

Conner4Real (Samberg) was the breakout star of a boy band called Style Boyz. He launched a successful solo career, but with his second album coming out, Conner finds it may be tough to keep the momentum going.

"Popstar" aims to be a "Spinal Tap" for this generation, taking aim at the social media excess of the current pop landscape. (At one point, the "Spinal Tap" influence borders on plagiarism: A joke about a Rolling Stone review giving Conner's album a poop emoji in lieu of stars is a thin twist on Tap's "Shit Sandwich" review.)

Schaffer and Taccone, who co-direct, get a lot right in sending up the absurdity of pop. "I used over 100 producers for just 17 tracks," Conner notes, "to guarantee they're all hits."

Over an hour and a half, we see Conner fall from his heights and reconnect with the other Style Boyz (Schaffer and Taccone). And there's an absurd cavalcade of celebrity cameos, everyone from Adam Levine to Nas. Like the movie at large, they're funny at first but wear a little thin.

It's not to say that "Popstar" doesn't have more than its share of laughs, but it really does feel like a great idea for a short stretched out into a feature-length movie. It works if you need a laugh, though.

"Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping"

Opens Friday

2 1/2 stars out of 4