One of my favorite Lonely Island renditions is “Jack Sparrow,” featuring Michael Bolton. Once heard, it’s really hard to get out of your head. Not only that, but the entire thing, from the video to the lyrics, is ridiculous, like most of their material is. And really, there’s no better word I can use to describe “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.” The comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, who became very popular when they started writing for “Saturday Night Live,” are just this side of insane, a bit zany, and witty. A homage to boy bands and loosely (very loosely) based on their own humble beginnings as a trio, the film is chock-full of celebrity cameos (Justin Timberlake, Bill Hader, Usher, Pink, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, and Jimmy Fallon among others) and isn’t at all afraid of poking fun of music, the lead cast, and the world of fame. “Popstar” knows exactly what kind of film it is and to what audience it’s catering to, making it a fun comedy with several laugh-out-loud moments.
The Style Boyz are childhood friends who decided to start a band together. Their biggest hit, “The Donkey Roll”, is one of the catchiest songs, influencing a generation of fans and other musicians (Usher chief among them). But after rising so high, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) starts getting a big head when he’s given more attention, pushing his band mates and friends to the back. And after he goes solo and receives a Poppy Award for a song Lawrence wrote (Akiva Schaffer) but was never given credit for, the two part ways and stop talking.
Owen (Jorma Taccone) sticks around and carries on the musical journey with Conner. Except, he’s been relegated to the back, a DJ pushed aside, his only job to press play on the iPod during concerts. With the help of his manager (Tim Meadows)–a man who also came from a boy band background–and publicist (Sarah Silverman), Conner launches his latest album. But the album flops, the first single doesn’t catch, and concerts don’t sell out. And so begins Conner4Real’s career spiral, which may ultimately lead him to the biggest reset his music career has ever seen.
Co-written by the trio and co-directed by Taccone and Schaffer, “Popstar” has just the right amount of comedy and outrageous behavior. It knows when to stay in its lane, although there are a couple of comedy moments that last too long, with the laughs losing their momentum. However, the film pokes fun of celebrity culture, the music industry, and even allows Mariah Carey to make fun of herself by declaring her humbleness. Shot as though it were a documentary about the actual band, the film gets a lot of things right, with plenty of great moments between all characters and straight-up zingers that are timed well without being overkill.
“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is not an intimately deep exploration of the music industry as a whole, but by playing it for laughs, it resonates even in its ridiculousness. It pokes fun of our celebrity-obsessed culture, of our addiction to watching celebrities fall so we have something to gossip about–the movie’s version of TMZ, called CMZ, being a primary example–and of the rise and fall of what’s in at the moment versus how quickly the turnaround time is for fame and maintaining people’s attention. “Popstar” is full of humor, nostalgic moments for those of us who ever enjoyed listening to boy bands, absurdity, and some honesty. If you’ve ever been a fan of The Lonely Island, then the film is definitely worth checking out.
"Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" is not an intimately deep exploration of the music industry as a whole, but by playing it for laughs, it resonates even in its ridiculousness.