Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, 2016.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone
Starring Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Bill Hader, Imogen Poots, Joan Cusack, Will Forte, and Martin Sheen
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.
Let’s be real, 90% of modern mainstream music is straight-up garbage, bottom of the barrel trash that essentially exemplifies most of everything wrong with society nowadays. We don’t need a movie like Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping to satirize the music industry and sycophant culture to tell it to us, no one really asked for one, but thankfully we got it, because this brisk 86 minute mockumentary stylized slice of comedy from professional music pranksters and comedy act trio The Lonely Island is completely ridiculous. There is a point where Conner4real (Andy Samberg) ends up reading a parody review of his recently released and flopped second solo album from none other than The Onion; well, watching Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping resembles reading an article from that website.
The entire movie plays out straight-faced and is all the more absurd for it. The brilliance however comes from how much and exactly how everything is put on blast (I would love to see the reaction of someone that works for TMZ to their scathing portrayal in this movie). There are also constant celebrity cameos in the form of talking head interviews from musicians ranging from Ringo Starr to 50 Cent to Carrie Underwood and so many more all poking fun at themselves.
Simply put, the movie is laugh out loud funny for most of its running time. The Lonely Island are no strangers to mocking the industry with their juvenile and often sexual humor, which is something that is on full display here; trust me, you’re going to want to purchase the soundtrack to Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It’s actually a shame there aren’t more songs, considering that them and their associated music videos or overproduced live performances are easily the highlight of the whole experience. There is seriously a song where Conner4real performs a number containing lyrics about how some lovely lady wants him to fuck her as hard as the American military fucked Osama bin Laden, and as I nearly cried laughing at it all, the saddest part was that deep down I could have realistically seen the song becoming an actual hit in the real world.
It is goofy, irreverent, and full of random humor; one song sees a character rattling off a list of things that he keeps in his vehicle, with the music video cutting to one of the many celebrity cameos to say something along the lines of “that song didn’t connect with me on an emotional level because I keep different things in my car”. One song is also just about wearing cowboy hats, sometimes three cowboy hats at once. Some of the sounds completely stupid as I write it, but the laughs all come from the execution and delivery that is nailed.
The one massive flaw with Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is that it is so committed to delivering nonstop laughs, that the plot never really forms into something at all. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense, as there are times Conner4real is down on his luck, and other times isn’t, but the songs are still always ludicrous to the point where they literally make no sense, begging the question how could one of these tracks be loved by all one minute and then universally despised the next. There is some strange logic on display, but for the most part viewers will just roll with it because they’re having such a fun time at the movies.
Unfortunately, the major jokes all feel front-loaded into the first two thirds of the film, before everything wraps itself up in predictable fashion. The movie is never necessarily bad, but it is doubtful that anyone will leave the auditorium talking about the last 25 minutes or so. The back-end of the movie is forgettable, whereas much of everything else borders on unforgettable. Perhaps if they had found a way to squeeze one more song in, much of this could have been corrected
In a lot of ways, I love and respect Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping just for solidifying everything I hear about celebrity obsession and modern mainstream music with a movie so tuned into its satire, that 20 years from now or even 100 years from now, someone might actually watch it and mistake it for a real actual documentary. It also helps that The Lonely Island have a gift for comedic writing, with Andy Samberg perfectly able to portray a first-class dimwit that is not a terrible person, but rather a good-natured guy that develops an ego simply because the masses eat up his crappy music, that when taken as satire is uproariously hilarious.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★