June 2, 2016

CINEMA | 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' is for Real

"Ever since I was born, I was dope."
Andy Samberg Judd Apatow | The Lonely Island | Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Former Saturday Night Live trio, comedians Andy SambergAkiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone better known as The Lonely Island, take their antics to the big screen mocking Hollywood fame and the music industry in the faux documentary, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Produced by Judd Apatow, written by/starring all three, and co-directed by Schaffer and Taccone, the film is a blisteringly hilarious mockery of everything to do with celebrity life and tabloid culture.

Known for their famous SNL Digital Shorts and pioneering our current age of viral video hits, Popstar rings true enough as a series of their trademark short films and musical numbers fairly well stringed together. It relies heavily on the style of recent music docs like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, One Direction: This Is Us, and the classic comedy bits of This Is Spinal Tap to skewer the tropes of rise and fall music stardom uproariously.

Schaffer and Taccone never over rely on talking head interviews, voiceovers or other documentary methods while going light on the whole Behind the Music aesthetic. Popstar is deftly able to reference or steal bits and pieces from recent history sending up Bieber, U2, reality television, and social media. Samberg as the perfectly self-obsessed Conner4Real is broad but pleasing as he ditches his boy band, the Style Boyz, to go solo. It's a familiar retread of many real-life music biographies and casts a breezy storyline over the film using it as an excuse to mock everything in sight.

Andy Samberg Conner4Real | Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The film is jam-packed with cameos, bit parts, and A-list musical collaborations. Sarah Silverman as Paula, Conner's publicist, is funny and delightful while Tim Meadows as the aloof band manager gets a lot of laughs while weaving his own arc into the plot. Chris Redd stands out as a larger than life rapper and friend turned rival to Conner.

The film follows Conner's highly anticipated, but poorly received, second album's release and its ill reception allows the highly produced songs to be more comically "bad" working better within the context of the faux documentary. It's a pleasure how joyously the well executed pop music blends into the hyper realistic faux world of the movie so well.

What makes Popstar such a delight is The Lonely Island's understanding of not only popular music, musical films, and the mockumentary genre, but also, their execution of elaborate comedic set pieces and jokes that make what is essentially a feature-length version of their sketches so enjoyable. The tightly-paced film is full of high notes and enough heart to make the quick-witted 86-minute venture a delightful, self-aware breeze.

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