Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2016. Apatow Productions, The Lonely Island, Party Over Here, Perfect World Pictures (Beijing), Perfect World Pictures, Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone. Cinematography by Brandon Trost. Produced by Judd Apatow, Rodney Rothman, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone. Music by Matthew Compton. Production Design by Jon Billington. Costume Design by Daniel Hyun Lim. Film Editing by Craig Alpert, Jamie Gross, Stacey Schroeder.
After achieving fame as a pre-teen in the trio The Style Boyz, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) has gone solo, leaving band mate Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) to turn farmer and Owen (Jorma Taccone) to become his onstage DJ. Conner is now a world-famous superstar who can’t even get his butt waxed without posting it online, constantly traveling, performing and doing interviews while blissfully unaware that he has no talent, is completely obnoxious and is perpetually revealing his lack of worldly education. Samberg’s spoof of the pop music industry, with Justin Bieber as its most obvious target, takes the form of a mockumentary and includes appearances by celebrities ranging as far as Ringo Starr, Carrie Underwood and a very funny Nas, playing themselves being “interviewed” about the subject’s immense effect on their lives. We watch Conner go from globally popular to his downfall before the inevitable redemption, a plot aping the superior Walk Hard that also came from the Apatow studio, with excellent recreations of home movie footage and some pretty hilarious gags that occur during Conner’s tour. Samberg’s charisma, backed up easily by his two co-stars (who also directed the film and co-wrote it with him), is enough to make it worthwhile for fans, but Walk Hard didn’t wink at the camera to remind us that what we are watching is satire, while This Is Spinal Tap is notable for playing it so straight that the situation of even watching the film is much of the reason why it’s funny. Here we have one joke spread out over a feature film, and not a mean enough joke to begin with: in real life, Bieber’s lack of awareness is so ridiculous that his activity at Anne Frank’s house has to be turned into a scatological joke just to make it worth doing, proving he’s far too easy a target and the film is far too soft in going after him for it (especially considering how sincere it becomes in the end). Amusing performances also include Sarah Silverman as his agent and Joan Cusack as his mom, while Will Arnett and Chelsea Peretti make terrific appearances in a pointed sendup of the TMZ team.