Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.

Release Date: June 3rd, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone Actors: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Imogen Poots, Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Joan Cusack, Tim Meadows

 


 

A

s a film crew chronicles the origins and falling apart of legendary pop group Style Boyz, a tale of both tragic hardships and unbreakable friendships emerges. When Conner Friel (Andy Samberg) steadily becomes more popular than bandmates Owen Bouchard (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence Dunn (Akiva Schaffer), a rift begins to form within the trio. Breaking off to do solo work, the front man changes his name to “Conner4Real” and finds great success with his first album, while Owen is relegated to an increasingly superfluous DJ role and Lawrence departs altogether to dabble in farming. But it’s not long before the absence of the collaborative spark that fueled Style Boyz, paired with Conner’s extreme egotism, spirals his career downward, forcing him to first take on irresponsible sponsor Aquaspin, then maniacal opening act Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), and finally to come to terms with the reckless actions that drove away his friends, his family, and his fans.

The film is an obvious nod to the mockumentary fashioning of “This Is Spinal Tap,” though it has received the most modern, appropriately 21st century update imaginable. The rock/pop/rap centerpiece contains all the relevant spoofs, from the eccentricity of the musicians themselves to the outrageous fandom that follows them. And though it utilizes the talking heads so often found in genuine documentaries, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” goes so far as to include real artists and countless cameos to paint its convincingly phony portrait of current celebrity performers and the way in which the media alternately praises and chastises them. It may be the rise and fall and rise again of a fictional group-turned-soloist-turned-group, but it showcases all the elements necessary to border on absolutely realistic.

“He’s painfully honest with his fans,” insists 50 Cent, speaking about Conner4Real’s live feeds, which detail his every action – from eating tacos to physically pleasuring himself. Likewise, the film is utterly comprehensive in the way it skewers everything that surrounds fame – from social media and gossip shows to entourages and fans to publicists and producers to critics and reviews. No stone is left unturned as it lampoons the vacuousness of songwriters, the sycophancy of retinue, and the fakery of advertisers or promoters. The production even pokes fun at the structuring of a documentary itself, as it acknowledges the boundaries of its own spontaneous filming, the inability to get all the right shots, and the idea that the camera never stops rolling. It even goes so far as to employ comical subtitles. And it’s helpful to have a bevy of recognizable comedians (mostly from “Saturday Night Live”) to fill in the gaps as supporting professionals, all out to either profit from Conner4Real’s success or contribute to his collapse.

As it takes America’s infatuation with the rich and famous lifestyle and serves it up for nonstop roasting, the film demonstrates a clever eye for the material. And with the hysterical lyrics for the ridiculously performed songs, it’s evident that comedy troupe The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone) did their homework to properly parody social issues, songwriting, stage shows, costuming/styling, and the immaturity used to attract or connect with likeminded youths. Although much of this scathing charade accurately embellishes subtler forms of narcissism, privilege, and wastefulness to surprising success, the creators’ old habits (as witnessed in 2007’s “Hot Rod”) tend to creep in here and there. Extreme repetition gets laughs the first time around, while sudden bursts of graphic nudity hope to stupefy viewers into forgetting the lulls that plague the middle of the picture; but the real ingenuity lies in the irony and wit of “Popstar’s” uproarious inhabitants, doing for the music industry what “Zoolander” did for fashion – but with greater resonance. Although it has its missteps, it’s the perfect satire for 2016’s population of impressionable, image-obsessed, renown-coveting, media-saturated epigones and devotees alike.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10