Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Directed by Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer
Published Jun 03, 2016There have been plenty of movies about the rise and fall of musicians. What sets the Lonely Island's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping apart from so many of the others — aside from the fact that it's incessantly funny — is how it's not quite as preoccupied with the process of becoming a musical sensation as it is with the compromising business of clinging to the slippery precipice of fame in these modern times.
After all, when we first meet the vain and vapid young musician Conner Friel a.k.a. Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), he appears to already be in the midst of a crisis. He's all set to drop his sophomore album, ConnQuest, complete with a massive tour and a unique rollout that includes having his songs blaring out of refrigerators and ovens across the world. But things quickly hit a snag when the album is absolutely savaged in reviews and an ambitious release party inadvertently leads to rolling blackouts across the country.
It's almost enough to make Conner pine for the old days with his former trio, the Style Boyz — if he weren't so damn narcissistic, that is. Through flashbacks and interviews with such heavyweight fans as Nas, Usher and even Ringo Starr, we learn how the surprisingly influential Style Boyz came to prominence with their ubiquitous hit and accompanying dance craze, "Donkey Roll." But their notoriety was short-lived thanks to Conner's ego, which led Owen (Jorma Taccone) — the beat-maker of the group — to be relegated to tour DJ for Conner while Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) — the trio's revered songwriter — left behind pop stardom altogether for life on a farm, despite the fact that he has no love for the work there.
By the time an up-and-coming rapper named Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd) is scheduled to open shows for Conner on his tour — despite the fact that Hunter is fast becoming a bigger name in the biz than Conner — we can see that the wave Conner's been riding has already crested.
Though the movie's too goofy and its targets are too easy to have much bite as an industry satire, it has a lot of fun with the pitfalls that plague Conner along the way. From sycophantic hangers-on, to fake girlfriends used for publicity, to the increasingly insane onstage gimmicks lined up to keep Conner from becoming irrelevant, the comedy casts a wide net, and an impressively high number of the jokes find their mark. It isn't only desperate pop stars like Conner who are lampooned, either, as a ravenous celebrity culture fuelled by trash like TMZ (or CMZ, as it's rebranded here, with Will Arnett standing in for Harvey Levin) and the unbridled vitriol of social media are all also square in the movie's crosshairs.
And then there are the songs. It wouldn't be a Lonely Island movie without the trademark brand of comedy-infused bangers we've come to expect from the group in their albums and SNL digital shorts, and there are some pop gems here that could blend in seamlessly with much of modern music were it not for the hilariously inappropriate lyrics. The highlight is probably "Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)," a catchy ode to sexing up your girl in the highly specific manner reminiscent of how the U.S. government fucked Osama Bin Laden. The only slight disappointment is a final number that can't quite live up to the lofty expectations imposed by the plot, but even that's still enough of a crowd-pleaser to satisfy.
It's destined to earn comparisons to This is Spinal Tap thanks to the mockumentary style, and its predictable cautionary tale of fame's trappings hardly serves as the most novel framework, but there are more than enough amusing threads and memorable appearances from familiar faces to easily make Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping one of the year's funniest films. In keeping with the film's ridiculous title, it's also one that's sure to only grow in esteem with repeat viewings.