Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 3, 2016

'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping'
'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping'  

There's a moment early on in "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" that's fairly defining of the film as a whole. It's a music video for the song "Equal Rights," performed by the mockumentary's main subject, Connor4Real (Andy Samberg). The song, essentially a spoof on Macklemore's "Same Love," is an anthem for gay marriage and equal rights that is packed with Connor repeatedly looking at the camera and exclaiming things like, "Not Gay!" and "Sports!" -- asserting his straightness within his "message" anthem. It's an utterly laugh-free affair, losing steam after the first "Not Gay!" before piling on about 50 more. However, the music video is immediately followed by a talking head of The Beatles' Ringo Starr delivering just a single line, but it had me howling in my seat.

That's the gist of "Popstar," a sporadically hilarious affair that feels long at 86 minutes, yet thank goodness it's only that short. At its worst an extended sketch comedy bit and at its best a classic music mockumentary/biopic in the realm of "This is Spinal Tap" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," the film is constantly teetering the lines between brilliantly stupid and just dumb. I had similar sentiments while watching "Keanu" last month. Whether it be Key & Peele there or with "Popstar," The Lonely Island (Samberg's musical comedy trio with the film's co-directors and stars Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer), the comedic talent behind these two films is original and unmatched. While I enjoyed both films, I do wish they chose to branch out beyond the same few jokes on spin cycle.

But alas, like "Keanu," I laughed plenty during "Popstar" -- many of these chuckles hard and ugly. When the movie is on, it is truly on, delivering an ingenious satire of the pop music industry, celebrity and everything in between (a spot-on spoof of TMZ called CMZ features Will Arnett, Chelsea Peretti and Eric Andre in one of the film's best recurring bits). Many of the jokes lie in familiar faces popping up in brief cameos (which I won't spoil), and others exist in watching musical icons -- such as Usher and Nas -- talking about how much Connor4Real's music has influenced them. It's all so silly and over the top, but most of the time it works.

The Lonely Island has been making waves since the rise of the "Digital Short" on late night staple "Saturday Night Live," where viewers were treated to such musical-comedy gems as "I'm on a Boat," "Like a Boss," and "Threw it on the Ground." "Popstar" finds the trio dabbling in similar musical territory, with songs like "Finest Girl" -- where Connor sings about sexing a girl with the tactical precision of the U.S. Navy Seals' Bin Laden operation -- and "Incredible Thoughts," which features a guest star who has worked with the trio in the past. Aside from a few low points, such as the aforementioned "Equal Rights," this is a laugh-driven film that perfectly passes its brief running time with entertaining belly busting.

It's not quite "Spinal Tap" or "Walk Hard," but it doesn't have to be nor does it really try to mimic those satirical namesakes. "Popstar" is its own entity, with something original (however ridiculous) to say. One's mileage will vary, especially depending on your idiotic tolerance, but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half. You could be listening or watching one of the many pop culture offerings that "Popstar" so expertly lampoons. In a world of Biebers and Kardashians, "Popstar" is the antidote-and a damn funny one at that.



Conner :: Andy Samberg
Owen :: Jorma Taccone
Lawrence :: Akiva Schaffer
Paula :: Sarah Silverman
Harry :: Tim Meadows
Deborah :: Maya Rudolph
Tilly :: Joan Cusack
Ashley :: Imogen Poots
Hunter :: Chris Redd
Eddie :: Edgar Blackmon
Sponge :: James Buckley


Director :: Akiva Schaffer
Director :: Jorma Taccone
Screenwriter :: Andy Samberg
Screenwriter :: Akiva Schaffer
Screenwriter :: Jorma Taccone
Producer :: Judd Apatow
Producer :: Rodney Rothman
Producer :: Andy Samberg
Producer :: Akiva Schaffer
Producer :: Jorma Taccone
Executive Producer :: Morgan Sackett
Cinematographer :: Brandon Trost
Film Editor :: Jamie Gross
Film Editor :: Craig Alpert
Film Editor :: Stacey Schroeder
Original Music :: Matthew Compton
Production Design :: Jon Billington
Art Director :: Ramsey Avery
Set Decoration :: Lori Mazuer
Costume Designer :: Sophie de Rakoff
Casting :: Allison Jones