Andy Samberg puts the pale pop in Popstar, 4real
Universal
June 2, 2016 6:10 AM EDT

The appeal of Andy Samberg is that he never appears to be trying too hard. His comedy is the off-the-cuff, vaguely nerdy kind, a grownup–but not too grownup–version of improvisational horsing around in the parental basement. With his writing and performing partners Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer–the trio known as the Lonely Island–he now brings us Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a faux documentary chronicling the high highs and low lows of Samberg’s Conner4Real, a former boy-band star whose first solo album meets with success, only to be followed by another that tanks. What could have gone wrong? He took care to include a pro-gay-marriage anthem (punctuating every other line with the words not gay, just to make sure his listenership didn’t get the wrong idea), and he enlisted 100 producers for 17 tracks. Nothing exceeds like excess.

Conner doesn’t suffer alone: his ex-bandmates, played by Taccone and Schaffer (also the movie’s directors), are floundering too. Together, the three wheel through absurd gags that shouldn’t work and somehow make them sing, giving the movie a loose, joyous energy. (The large roster of star cameos, including Questlove, DJ Khaled and Mariah Carey, doesn’t hurt.) Samberg’s Conner swaggers through it all, but he never lets us forget he’s just an overtattooed white guy riddled with self-doubt. Even his excessive indoor pastiness, possibly the result of spending all that time in the studio with those 100 producers, is funny, and Samberg, at heart a pasty indoor person himself, knows it.

–STEPHANIE ZACHAREK

This appears in the June 13, 2016 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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