Popstar: Spinal Tap stylings are a cover too far

Copyright infringement lawyers might have a field day at this diverting pop music spoof

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
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Cert: 16
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Justin Timberlake, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader
Running Time: 1 hr 26 mins

Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Justin Timberlake, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader 16 cert, gen release, 86 min

As the mock-documentary has set in over the decades, we have become used to the suggestion that some film – one a month, maybe – is “a little like This is Spinal Tap”.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping takes the comparison to another level. At the risk of exciting the lawyers, one could argue that this diverting Andy Samberg vehicle is a remake of Rob Reiner's durable classic.

Samberg plays Conner4Real, a pop star who, some years after success with a boy band, sets out to release a solo album. There really is a scene in which he and his followers fail to believe the negative reviews. (Rolling Stone awards it “the shit emoji out of 10”.)


There really is a sequence in which an elaborate stage prop – here a costume in the style of Daft Punk – causes the musicians great inconvenience.

The two main talents really do become estranged before being eased back together in the final frames. That delicious title nods towards the Justin Bieber doc Never Say Never, but we're not that easily distracted. It's none-more Spinal Tap.

It shouldn’t need to be said that the film fails to live up to its predecessor. The characters aren’t so clearly drawn. The tone is insufficiently varied.

Most significantly, it can’t hope to recapture the sheer novelty of that hugely original entertainment. But Popstar is very amusing in fits and starts.

Samberg and his posse (who work as Lonely Island on Saturday Night Live) have a good ear for contemporary pop and deliver one or two crackers that, if heard fleetingly, could pass as genuine hits. Particularly funny is Equal Rights, an argument for same sex-marriage, during which Conner repeatedly clarifies that he’s “not gay”.

Sadly one or two numbers – Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song) in particular – exhaust their joke in the first bar before repeating it to the point of nausea.

Popstar bombed on its US release, but, packed to bursting with celebrity cameos, it feels like a film that will have a long afterlife.

Come to think of it, nobody went to see Spinal Tap when it came out.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist