Mockumentaries are tough to pull off. The filmmakers have to hit just the right tone in the story to make us care about the characters at the same time we recognize they’re acting like idiots, or at least having ridiculous things happening to them. This Is Spinal Tap is, of course, the gold standard and indeed more or less kicked off the genre, which was then furthered by Christopher Guest in his own movies starting with Waiting For Guffman. These all approach their characters not as buffoons, but as sincere, if occasionally cluelessly self-delusional, people who are doing their best to achieve what counts in their own minds and in their own little world as success.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the latest entry in this genre. Andy Samberg stars as Conner4Real, a former boy band member who’s striking out on his own. After the success of his first record he’s ready for the sophomore album to come out and make him an even bigger star. But things may not be going so well as his extravagant lifestyle and penchant for headline-grabbing stunts both on- and off-stage collide with a reality that may not be inline with his expectations. So the movie, the brainchild not just of Samberg but his whole Lonely Island crew, takes Spinal Tap’s basic structure and updates it for the Bieber/Timberlake generation.
The first poster certainly lets you know what the tone of the movie will be. Samberg is there in character looking very Justin Bieber-esque in an all-white outfit, including muscle-tee, as he stands against a bright and glittery gold background. At the top of the poster, above the title treatment, we get the movie’s bonafides, including that it comes from The Lonely Island guys and was produced by Judd Apatow. It’s big, gaudy and ridiculous, which is just what you would expect from the talent involved.
A second poster didn’t vary too greatly, it just added the rest of the Lonely Island crew behind Samberg.
The first trailer was a red-band version that starts out by introducing us to Conner and the relationship he has with his fans. Some real celebrity interviews talk about just what a force Conner is but most of the trailer is about introducing us to his entourage, including a roadie, bagpiper, publicist and lots more.
It’s…it’s pretty funny. As usual Samberg looks completely committed to the role and it’s clear he’s super into his role as a Beiber-like pop star and assuming the movie can string a couple jokes together in a decent manner this should be pretty funny.
A green-band version was released a bit later that is largely the same (save for the curse words and other off-color humor) but does start off differently, going back to see the early days of Conner and how he dreamed as a child of being a big star.
The next trailer hits many of the same beats as the previous versions but also includes a bit more of the story. So we get more of the setup of just how clueless and out of touch Conner is but we see that this is all coming on the eve of his second album’s release. That’s causing him to up his game in terms of crazy stunts.
I like how this does at least hint at some more of the story and explain *why* we’re watching Conner at this moment. It is, it should be noted, roughly the same premise as This is Spinal Tap but hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best, right?
Online and Social
There’s a lot going on with the official website, which is pretty crowded, though not laid out very well. It’s presented as the official Conner4Real fan page, again, muddling the lines between perspective since it also has a big prompt to get tickets on Fandango above the fold and prompts to follow the movie on social networks at the top. I don’t ask for much, just consistency.
Anyway, the left-hand side of the page has a menu of content options, the first of which is “The Movie,” which has a cast list and brief synopsis.
“Conner’s Bio” offers background on the character played by Samberg, including his beginnings with the group The Style Boyz and more. “The Conntourage” offers quick looks at the people Conner has surrounded himself with. Nothing too deep her, just names, their role in the organization and a few words describing who they are to Conner. There’s also an application link for you to see if you have what it takes to join this elite group.
The “Photos” section mostly has official stills but it looks like there’s at least one behind-the-scenes shot as well. “Videos” has all the trailers and a TV spot.
Finally, “The Early Dayz” has information on The Style Boyz, including information on the other members of the group, trivia about their time together and more.
There’s the usual array of promotional videos and photos on the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. There were also profiles for Conner himself on Twitter and Instagram for him to document his outrageous lifestyle.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one were run that played like mini versions of the trailer, showing as much of the antics Conner gets into and the people around him while not really offering anything in the way of story explanations. It’s good and definitely sells the movie based on the core strength – Samberg’s winking performance – but that’s about it.
Online ads, including promoted social network posts, were run that used the key art and motion video from the trailers. I’m sure there were plenty of outdoor ads placed that used the key art as well.
Oddly, no promotional partners were mentioned online or in any industry press that’s shown up.
Media and Publicity
The publicity for the movie kicked off when Samberg went on “Kimmel” to announce the title and show off the first poster. Much later things continued with the release of two songs from the soundtrack. That was followed by an appearance by Samberg on “The Voice” to duet with Adam Levine, who also appears in the movie.
The Lonely Island gang got a nice big feature in GQ where they talked about humor, showed off their style choices and lots more.
Samberg and the rest of the cast and crew talked about the movie and what it was trying to do – mostly parody the whole of pop culture – at the movie’s premiere. They also talked about the approach they took to the music in trying to make it as authentic as possible. Apatow talked about similar things, including how he got involved in producing the movie and he’d continue to do various interviews leading up to the release of the movie.
I’ve referenced it a few times, but the comparisons to This is Spinal Tap are inescapable and I’m sure the filmmakers and studio are, to some extent, counting on that. The campaign presents a movie that’s got lots of funny moments but the question remains whether or not those moments can be connected into something resembling a full feature film and not just a collection of web shorts, which is where The Lonely Island made its bones.
But – and this is a point I will hammer home as many damn times as it takes before Hollywood stops it – it suffers from Perspective Disorder, where sometimes it wants to take you fully into Conner’s world and have it be him that you’re following and who’s pitching you this documentary on his life but at the same time can’t stop selling you the movie as it exists in this world. That continues to be a problem I just can’t get past and so points are being deducted accordingly. It’s still a decent campaign, though, for a movie that looks fairly amusing.