Full disclosure, I thought this was a little more "Under the Radar" than it actually is. I suppose perspective is everything. Nevertheless, despite how much I love The Lonely Island's farcical music, for some reason, I never sat down to check out 'Popstar' in its more than five years of existence. I suppose my familiarity era for Lonely Island material is more the stuff that took place ten-plus years ago.
Just taking a slight aside here, let's talk about further, more "hidden" Lonely Island success. They may be mostly known for their SNL/viral music videos, but the trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer have had their hands in a bunch of popular stuff, including writing and performing "Everything is Awesome" and 'The LEGO Movie', a Netflix Original called 'Michael Bolton's Big, Sexy Valentine's Day Special', the upcoming 'Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers' and more. So they may be a little more "behind the scenes" now, but I'd almost consider them to be the modern-day, edgier "Weird Al" (not to take anything away from Al, I still love the guy!)
The film is shot mostly mockumentary-style, as it covers the success of Conner Friel (Samberg); a musician who went solo after his work with the fictional "Style Boyz" fell apart with a break-up. The Style Boyz further consisted of Conner's childhood friends, Lawrence Dunn (Schaffer), who has since become a farmer after failing his own solo career and Owen Bouchard (Taccone), who becomes Conner's nearly pointless DJ (as all he does is hit "play" on an iPod). Conner has since adopted the solo name "Conner4Real", and his debut album "Thriller, Also" is ultimately a success. However, his second album, "Connquest", tanks, putting Conner in a bit of a desperate situation.
Harry (Tim Meadows), Conner's manager, tries a few different things to attempt to get Conner back on top. These include things like trying a sponsorship with Aquaspin home appliances and hiring a rapper named Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd). Meanwhile, Conner tries his own strategies with on-stage gimmicks that keep going wrong and going public with his proposal to actress Ashley Wednesday (Imogen Poots), on the advice of his publicist, Paula Klein (Sarah Silverman). Soon enough, however, it becomes a question of what part of this job is more important - the money, fame and success, or doing right by his fans and old friends.
I can't believe that this one almost went over my head. The way it plays with the ego of this "superstar" gone awry gets pretty hilarious, but what really makes the movie is ALL of the names attached to the cast. Shot mockumentary style, we get names like Seal, Michael Bolton, Nas, 50 Cent, Usher, Akon, Mariah Carrey, DJ Khaled, ASAP Rocky, Mario Lopez, and even the one and only Ringo Starr all playing themselves in various interviews. And that's not even everyone! To see how serious they are in some of these ridiculous interviews about Conner4Real can get pretty hilarious.
All in all, this ended up being a box office failure. But I think one must take into account other titles released around it contributing to its box office floppiness as well. It was released alongside 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows', and had 'X-Men: Apocalypse' and 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' released before it, while audiences were awaiting the following week's releases of 'The Conjuring 2', 'Now You See Me 2' and 'Warcraft'. Even 'Finding Dory' was released the week after that. In other words, it almost didn't stand a chance when your average fan is flocking to familiarity.
With that said, however, I can't push this as a comedy enough. This is, without a doubt, one of the funniest comedies I've seen in quite a while, and it's something I plan on re-watching time and time again. It's going to be one of those titles for yours truly. Just as far as taste goes, I might classify it as something of a present-day but edgier 'This is Spinal Tap'. It's absolutely worth checking out if you are or ever have been a fan of Lonely Island, as well. Despite the fact that it didn't do so hot at the Box Office, it has earned a bit of a cult following, and I'm pretty happy to join that particular cult. A few minor things hold it back, but this is almost a 5.
Going back to 1987, this particular Christmas special that has remained completely under the radar for audiences ever since, IS my all-time favourite TV Christmas Special. That's saying a lot, seeing as it has such things like 'Rudolph', 'Frosty', 'The Grinch' and of course, 'Charlie Brown' to contend with. But this came along when I was 5, and for whatever reason, very much into the California Raisins.
For anyone unfamiliar, the California Raisins were claymated jazz raisins for kids, who sang real soul songs our parents probably enjoyed. Their biggest hit was 'Heard it Through the Grapevine', and they were often used for advertising. For many of us kids, it worked... I still dunno why, but it is what it is. Here's a quick pick of their raisin commercials.
Anyway, they had their share of specials for kids, but their best featured appearance was probably right here in this one. They do their rendition of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' as the big finale song for this special. And yes, I'm a 36-year-old man who still considers this to be the best version of the song, even over the talents of Burl Ives (whose rendition is from the 'Rudolph' special). A bold statement, perhaps, but there you have my unpopular opinion.
The special is hosted by a Tyrannosaurus named Rex (Johnny Counterfit) and a Triceratops named Herb (Tim Conner). Together, they go through the 24-minute special, introducing us to claymated music videos that cover specific Christmas traditions. Aside from 'Rudolph', they also tackle 'We Three Kings', 'Carol of the Bells', 'Angels We Have Heard on High', 'Oh Christmas Tree', 'Joy to the World' and 'Here We Come a Wassailing'. All are done in comedic fashion, except 'Joy to the World' which... honestly just plain looks awesome, and is probably my favourite version of THAT song too.
The special can be easily found to stream on-line, and each music video is easily found on YouTube. It sadly made its last run on television (that I'm aware of) some time back in the 90s, and has been well-hidden ever since. It's a special that, when brought up to people, no one seems to really remember. However, more people remember the next special I'm about to cover more, and it ran back-to-back with this for a little while. It's funny what our minds retain.
If you ever get curious about more claymation and those crazy raisins, however, check out this special's director Will Vinton. He directed pretty much all of the 'California Raisins' specials, along with an Easter special (that I have yet to see) and much more. He was an interesting and unique talent, who really seemed to understand that some kids wanted the strange and unusual. He only just passed away on October 4th of this year, and didn't seem to get any recognition for his work, even if it's completely dated. It should be known that most of the songs on that list, I was introduced to through this special. It's worth a watch for a mere good 24 minutes. Good laughs, good music, good animation, and a good way to get into the festive spirit.