Movie Review – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Director : Akiva Schaffer + Jorma Taccone
Year Of Release : 2016
Principal Cast : Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, James Buckley, Edgar Blackmon, Bill Hader, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Emma Stone.
Approx Running Time : 83 Minutes
Synopsis: When it becomes clear that his solo album is a failure, a former boy band member does everything in his power to maintain his celebrity status.
I won’t sugar-coat it: I loathe Justin Bieber. The fact a muppet-faced little toad can have so much talent, and then waste it on being a complete sphincter of a kid gets under my skin and makes me cringe. I’ve never shied away from my distaste for the chump, and so we see the Lonely Island crew deliver such a dead-on pastiche of all things “pop” and boy howdy does it deliver some nice laughs. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a mockumentary around such awful fare as Bieber’s Never Say Never, with Andy Samberg portraying the bratty populist Connor Friel (aka Connor4Real, heh heh) and fellow Lonely Island members Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, who both also direct this effort, gathering an absolute goldmine of celebrity cameos (most of which I’ve not put in the cast credits above, for *spoilers*) and piecing together an often gut-busting comedic work that nails its subjects, smashes the easy targets, and perfectly captures the asinine nature of modern youth celebrity in all it’s Insta-Tweeter-Tumblr horror.
Plot synopsis courtesy Wikipedia: Conner4Real (Samberg) is a world-famous recording artist with a massive fanbase and 32 people on his personal payroll, from his DJ and lyricist (Jorma Taccone) to his wolf tamer and unicorn trainer. The documentary follows Conner as he undergoes the ups and downs of the pop star life, especially after his second album Connquest is a flop and he is forced to do whatever he can to stay in the spotlight, short of reuniting with his old boy band The Style Boyz.
I laughed my ass off watching this. Popstar is hilarious, dead-on comedic brilliance from Samberg and Co, as they skewer the pop music scene and the fragility of fame. The film delivers joke after joke after joke, a breathless scattershot approach that works superbly well. Okay, not every laugh lands gracefully, but with so many jabs at cultural stupidity at such a rapid pace you’ll probably find yourself missing some from laughing so hard at the ones that do. Like I did. Samberg plays the doltish Connor with exuberant charm and ego-driven arrogance – if that sounds contradictory, then yes, it is – and he’s more than ably backed up by co-conspirators Schaffer and Taccone.
The film plumbs some absolutely glorious comedic tropes – Connor having to sign a penis at one point (yeah, you read that right) is one of the moments I nearly peed my pants with laughter – and it’s all delivered with such deadpan seriousness it literally sparkles off the screen, as Connor’s party-hard lifestyle comes crumbling down when his album crashes, and his world tour is usurped by the support act. Ruined engagements, TMZ-style parody takes on celebrity, Seal (the singer) attacked by wolves, a turtle with soft bones, horse art, a light helmet with the sound of the aliens from War of The Worlds, a medley with Michael Bolton, the crush of fickle fame and friendship: Popstar’s absurdist mentality works on levels both obvious and subtle. Not to mention, casting Justin Timberlake in the role he appears is sublime. He he he! Of course, the nonsensical songs inhabiting this film are pure sugar, the fluffy ridiculous lyrics jarring against the thump-thump bass line with agression and non-sequitorial precision. Best one? A song about “f@cking like the US did to Bin Laden”, surely a contender for Song of The Year if South Park can get away with it.
Popstar doesn’t outstay its welcome either; a lot of indulgent star-driven projects tend to hit the 2-hour mark and become tiresome in spite of greatness, whereas Popstar’s sub-90 minute runtime allows the editing to cherry-pick the best of the best material. I’d love to see the gag-reel for this film of the stuff that didn’t make it in, I’m sure it’d still be hilarious. While older fans of this comedic genre will point to Spinal Tap as the zenith of musical mockumentary films, the modern equivalency of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping gives it a run for its money. Style Boyz for life, yo!
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