Their latest effort, Universal’s R-rated comedy “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” is an all-out bomb, opening this weekend in eighth place with just $4.6 million in grosses from 2,311 locations. (Cue the “Lonely Island” puns.)
What’s vexing about the film — directed by Island crew members Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, starring Andy Samberg, and written by all three — is that it received the best reviews of all the new wide releases this weekend. Really, it did. “Popstar” outscored romantic drama “Me Before You” by 20 percent for a 76 percent “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and more than doubled “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows'” 35 percent “Rotten” score.
Here are five reasons why “Popstar” flopped:
Lest we forget, the 2007 comedy “Hot Rod,” also made by the Island guys, bombed too. It starred Samberg as a goofy, self-proclaimed stuntman, and only earned $14 million … total.
Samberg’s movie career isn’t a lost cause. It’s just that the films in which he’s a supporting ensemble player are much more successful. In fact, his biggest hits are ones in which he doesn’t even appear on-screen: “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and the aforementioned “Transylvania” animated movies. Good for his bank account, bad for his status as a leading man.
2. Audiences will wait to watch at home.
3. Was marketing a (careless) whisper?
There were some billboards, trailers, and TV spots — but the marketing for “Popstar” certainly didn’t feel ubiquitous. Universal may have been banking on the digital short that ran on “SNL” to take off more than it did, potentially at the expense of traditional marketing.
4. It should have been rated PG-13.
The R-rating may have been prohibitive to teens — who are arguably the most hyperaware of Bieber and all of his idiosyncrasies. With a PG-13 rating, seats could have been filled with audiences who actually listen to pop stars, or at least confess to it.
5. Come to think of it, what was the audience for this movie exactly?
A lot of Gen Yers are focused on urban gardening, DIY culture, and — let’s face it — singer/songwriters like Andrew Bird. And Gen Xers couldn’t care less about the Biebs or a parody of him. Let’s not even start with Baby Boomers.