Although their SNL shorts and music videos are generally cherished by comedy and/or cannabis enthusiasts, the Lonely Island boys haven’t had the best of luck on the big screen. Hot Rod raced through both theaters and the public consciousness, raking in all of $14M at the box office; a few years later, the Jorma Taccone-helmed MacGruber failed to recoup its budget, outpaced, as Matt Singer once pointed out, by Furry Vengeance, “starring Brendan Fraser as a real-estate developer at war with a raccoon.” It would’ve been hard for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping to fall any lower on the scale of profitability than that cult-favorite MacGyer parody.
And indeed, it did not. 2016’s Popstar, featuring Andy Samberg as a gleefully oblivious Justin Bieber-like pop-culture phenom, earned roughly $300,000 more, still failing to clear $10M and providing a pretty solid case that audiences prefer their Lonely Island productions to be roughly 5 minutes long and also free.
To steal Singer’s framework, Popstar grossed less than half what Nine Lives pulled in, that film in which Kevin Spacey voices an anthropomorphic cat named Mr. Fuzzypants and Christopher Walken runs a shop called Purrkins’ Pet Store, because his name is Felix Perkins.All of which is too bad, because Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is hilarious (as were those previous box office bombs). Full of “Behind The Music”-style gags, celebrity cameos, and legitimately good, if ridiculous, songs, it’s Lonely Island’s most accomplished foray into feature film to date, and was therefore met with apparently widespread disinterest.
As Conor4Real, Samberg plays to his strengths, grinning like an idiot while he throws out non sequiturs, and the rest of the cast gamely ups the idiocy. (Chris Redd especially deserves mention for his ludicrously ferocious turn as the next big thing stealing Conor’s spotlight.)
There’s even a story of brotherly love and redemption here, amid all the dick jokes and Samberg rapping things like, “I feel more humble than Dikembe Mutumbo after a stumble left him covered in a big pot of gumbo.” It’s fun for the whole family.
(Streaming on HBO Go)
More on this next week, when I plan to discuss each of the films from the perspective of a guy who’d only seen Wrath of Khan previously, but all the original Star Trek films are available for your perusal. If you enjoy staring at other people who are staring at something else, you will find a warm welcome here! (Also, they’re — mostly — a lot of fun.)
(Streaming on Amazon Prime)
It’s debatable which offers the broadest foil for Christopher Guest’s stock company of improv goofs: the small-town musical theater enthusiasts of Waiting for Guffman or the lunatic dog competitors of Best In Show. Both carry more than a whiff of condescension and grabbing at low-hanging comic fruit.
But Best In Show gives a little room for a sympathetic (and hilarious) characterization from Guest himself, and the Fred Willard moments are worth the price of admission in and of themselves. Even if the premise is inherently silly, these are funny people often saying funny things. That’s still pretty good.
(Streaming on Netflix)
To be clear, The Puppet Man is a bit ludicrous. But if you want to spend 10 minutes luxuriating in Argento-style lighting and Carpenter homages, with a score and cameo by the man himself, here’s your movie.
(Streaming on Shudder)
A Ghost Story, David Lowery’s latest, has been generating a lot of buzz recently, so now might be a good time to revisit some of his earliest works. Including Some Analog Lines from 2006, a short rumination on creative work in which he happens to reveal that his very first film, shot at age 7, was also titled A Ghost Story, and featured his brother in a ghost costume.
Le CiNéMa Club has gathered that and two others, presenting them together as a 13-minute piece of rapid-fire programming. The shorts are charming, knowing, and (unsurprisingly for someone who was originally an editor by trade) well-edited. The director’s fans will recognize some of his signature aesthetic tics, but everyone will find something to relate to in the rush of images and reflections.
(Streaming on Le Cinema Club)