Over the past decade or so, The Lonely Island has written one hilarious song after another. Through Lazy Sunday, Motherlover, Jack Sparrow, and of course Dick in a Box, the comedy trio made Digital Shorts a staple of Saturday Night Live. Since Andy Samberg was the only featured player on SNL, people often forget about the other guys in the group: Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. In Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Samberg once again steals the spotlight, but Schaffer and Taccone act as directors. The two also star as Samberg’s former band members who couldn’t make it solo. One can’t help but wonder if Popstar is at all autobiographical. In any case, the film is an inspired satire of the music industry, celebrities, fan culture, and everything in-between.
an inspired satire of the music industry, celebrities, fan culture, and everything in-between.
Filmed like an extended episode of VHI’s Behind the Music, this mockumentary follows Samberg as Conner Friel, aka Conner4real. Reminiscent of Justin Bieber, except older and even cockier, Conner is revered as one of his generation’s “dopest” musicians. His career takes a turn for the worse, though, when his latest album bombs. Things continue to go downhill for Connor as he loses endorsements, fails to sell out his concerts, gets dumped by his girlfriend, and endures a hilarious wardrobe malfunction. The Onion does give him a glowing review, however.
Much like Will Ferrell, Samberg has a gift for shaping arrogant, clueless narcissists into lovable fools. Schaffer also makes for a strong screen presence as Lawrence, Connor’s envious ex-lyricist who left music to become a farmer. Meanwhile, Taccone makes up for his Razzie-nominated performance in Land of the Lost as Owen, Connor’s loyal DJ who basically just presses a button on an iPod. The film additionally includes fun supporting performances from Tim Meadows as Conner’s agent and Sarah Silverman as his publicist.
The names don’t stop there. Popstar works in more cameos than a Muppet movie, featuring Snoop Dogg, Simon Cowell, Mariah Carey, Seal, and others all playing themselves. We get some especially humorous work from Chris Redd as a deranged rapper, Bill Hader as a roadie who laughs in the face of death, and Justin Timberlake in a role I won’t dare spoil. Perhaps the funniest bit in the movie involves Will Arnett as a Harvey Levin knockoff, taking a highly warranted shot at TMZ.
Popstar slows down a little in its third act when it attempts to work in a life lesson. Fortunately, the rest of the film is essentially just an excuse to laugh. While many of the comedy routines will leave you in stitches, the musical numbers stand out above all else. While none of them quite top the tour de force of Jizz in My Pants, the music here is incredibly inventive, catchy, and hysterical. There’s a particularly priceless ditty about Osama bin Laden that seriously NEEDS to get in for Best Original Song at next year’s Oscars.
There’s a particularly priceless ditty about Osama bin Laden that seriously NEEDS to get in for Best Original Song at next year’s Oscars.
On the whole, Popstar is a much better movie than The Lonely Island’s last cinematic outing, Hot Rod. If you’re not a fan of their humor, chances are the film will play out like an overly long SNL skit. For everyone else, Popstar is Lonely Island’s answer to This is Spinal Tap.