The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday’s review of “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” click here.

My favorite Christmas carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” because it has the most poetic lyrics. My second-favorite Christmas carol is “D*** in a Box,” a song from comedy trio The Lonely Island that premiered on SNL in 2006. I watch the clip every year at Christmastime. And at other times. Like while writing this column.

[2:38 later …]

Which brings us to “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” the new comedy featuring The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone). Before seeing it, I thought of a quote from Gene Siskel that has always resonated with me. He’d ask, “Is the movie that I am watching as interesting as a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?” For “Popstar,” my question was, “Will this movie be as good as just watching Lonely Island videos when I am supposed to be working?”

Here’s the thing about comedies: To be good, they have to be smart. To my 7-year-old son, a fart noise is funny. But once he gets past a certain age — and please, God, let it be soon — he’s going to realize that fart noises are funny only when they have a purpose, a motivation and a sense of timing. That’s why the long campfire scene in “Blazing Saddles” works: It’s about farting, but the sustained belly laughs don’t come from the fact that people are farting, but from the extended absurdity of the fart noises. (Also, can someone please check to see if the Pulitzer committee has a cap on how many times a column can include “fart” before said column is disqualified?)

In “Popstar,” a mockumentary about obnoxious singer/rapper Conner4Real, all of The Lonely Island’s songs showcase the verbal quickness and solid musical sensibilities of the three members, which makes the songs the real stars of the show.

The overarching story generates its own laughs, but since it lacks the wit of the songs, in the end it’s fairly forgettable. In fact, only one non-song joke stuck with me, and it’s because it’s a joke involving a penis that goes on so long (the joke, not the penis), it makes the “Blazing Saddles” campfire scene seem like a blip. But the hilarious, aggressively heteronormative song “Equal Rights” is stuck in my head.
It’s rare to see these two brands of comedy — intelligent and juvenile — juxtaposed in the same movie. Here, one is wildly successful, the other not so much, which makes “Popstar” a lesson in how comedy works and why getting laughs almost always means using your brain.

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