If you want to understand why Hollywood is usually reluctant to greenlight R-rated, mainstream films, all you have to do is look at last year’s “Deadpool,” “The Nice Guys,” and “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.” The first film, of course, was a massive smash, and soon there were calls for the industry to take more risks with R-rated films. So, the same summer, two original, and very good R-rated comedies arrived, and both underperformed. For Andy Samberg, while the performance of his music industry parody might’ve been disappointing, he’s been down that path before with his The Lonely Island buddies on “Hot Rod.” That film also missed the mark at the box office, but found cult appreciation afterward, and it seems the same is happening with ‘Popstar.’
“…it definitely feels similar to [‘Hot Rod’ and ‘MacGruber‘], in that it didn’t come out the way we were hoping in terms of the theater launch. But already, the word of mouth on it has been wonderful. I’ve noticed, which is the ultimate dream, that other people who work in comedy have gone out of their way to tell us that they like it,” Samberg told USA Today. “I did something with J.J. Abrams the other week and he said he’s been watching it a ton with his son. That was awesome. I also bumped into Tony Hawk and he told me the same thing. I was like, ‘Well, those two alone — it was worth making it.’ Those are just two heroes, straight up. Those are the kinds of things you love taking back to the guys, Akiva [Schaffer] and Jorma [Taccone]. ‘Hey, guess who likes ‘Popstar’? ”
The big question of course is why these movies only seem to catch on after they leave cinemas, and it’s something Samberg doesn’t have the answer for.
“I think some of it is when you put them out; some of it is the way they’re represented in the PR stuff; some of it is just luck; some of it is it’s just not the kind of thing people want to go to the theater for, for whatever reason. This time, I feel we got really good reviews, which was unexpected, because we thought we were making such a silly comedy,” he said. “It felt nice. … So I really couldn’t say. If I knew the answer, I would have put out movies that made more money.”
Whether or not The Lonely Island gets another shot at a studio movie remains to be seen, but certainly, there is an audience out there for their material. Maybe the next step is skipping the multiplex altogether and going direct to streaming.