Movie Reviews: "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" is Full of Biting References to Popumentaries
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If you like satirical humor, you won't want to miss this Andy Samberg comedy!
You might know the sketch comedy rap trio The Lonely Island from seminal viral hits like "I'm on a Boat," "I Just Had Sex" and "YOLO." If so, you’re about to get to know them even more. Instead of fizzling out, crashing and burning, or fading into obscurity, they've now taken their talents to the big screen. Their debut movie riffs on those sugary and motivational "popumentaries" in the vein of Katy Perry: Part of Me, One Direction: This Is Us, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and so on—hence the mirthfully titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
Meet superstar Conner AKA #Conner4Real (played greatly by Andy Samberg), a heavily tattooed white boy rapper with chart-topping hits and sold out stadium concerts. He rolls with a thirty-two-person entourage who take on various duties (my personal favorite is the guy who sporadically kicks Conner in the nuts so he "doesn't forget where he came from"). We learn that Conner was once part of a Beastie Boys-esque group called the Style Boyz (which contains the other two Lonely Island members, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone), but pulled a Beyonce or Justin Timberlake and has risen to renowned fame as a solo act. He gears up to release "the most anticipated album of the decade," but much to Conner's surprise, the album ends up being a commercial and critical flop. From then on, the rest of Popstar revolves around Conner going to drastic lengths to revitalize his career.
In a recent Hot 97 interview, Andy Samberg said that the movie should've been called "Rapstar," and he isn't wrong; there's definitely a mainstream hip-hop lean to it. Guest spots in the film include the legendary Nas, contemporary trendsetter ASAP Rocky, and the sensational DJ Khaled (Another One). During the aforementioned interview, The Lonely Island crew also expressed their eclectic tastes in rap music, ranging from old-school Bay Area wordsmiths like Hieroglyphics to today's divisive genre-benders like Lil Yachty and Young Thug. What I’m saying is: the troupe genuinely knows their stuff, and that definitely comes through in their uproarious music and this hysterically clever flick.
Here, they've penned the screenplay together (with some help from Judd Apatow), which is full of biting references and hilarious punchlines. It's successful because it keeps a close ear to what's hot in current pop culture, and the subjects are spoofed in a playful way without being patronizing. The sense of humor is keen and observational—satirizing celebrity excess, tabloid blunders, paparazzi run-ins, social media antics, Behind The Music drama, and the swift falls from being on top of the world. But don't get it twisted; the film doesn't shy away from being straight up silly either. I mean, this is the same group that put out a song called "Dick in a Box".
Conner is a character that could've been unbearable, but thanks to Andy Samberg's charisma, comic timing, and overall dedication to the role, Conner4Real is a consistently amusing guy who grows on you along the way, despite all his egotistical mishaps. Other comedy staples such as Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader pleasantly round out the cast (I'll refrain from naming any further cameos, but I will say that there's A LOT of them, and they're good ones).
All of the humor in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping won't fly with everyone, but if you're a fan of The Lonely Island's work and are in need of some laughs, this film is far from a flop.