In Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, the title lets you know what you’re in for. It is a biting satire of the modern-day music industry, being a celebrity, and the egos that fuel it all. It’s funny enough, but it isn’t without its problems.
Popstar follows Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), a former member of the “Styleboyz” who branched off and went solo after he got more attention. Owen, (Jorma Taccone) another member of the Styleboyz, is his DJ (he plugs in an iPod and acts like he’s doing stuff) while Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) quit and is now farming. The film focuses on Conner and the release of his second album, “CONNquest,” which isn't getting the reception Conner hoped for.
The Lonely Island (the people that created this movie) are hilarious. They’re responsible for the SNL Digital Shorts, which are pretty much all great. And there's a lot of funny scenes here. These guys are especially good at music, and the music here makes fun of different things artists do, from getting on a social justice bandwagon to seem like a better person or a song where they repeat the same words to a dance move. These scenes are great. Other laughs come from the tons of cameos throughout the film, mainly consisting of popular artists and SNL alumni like Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader. Most of these laughs are funny on paper ideas; “Dude, what if we made Bill Hader do ____?” But the jokes work well and I laughed at them.
The film is shot as a mockumentary, and the format really helps with the cameos mentioned earlier, allowing celebrities to appear in talking heads (shots in documentaries where people talk to the camera) throughout the movie. It allows an inside view, but it also allows for some interesting jokes. It’s parodying the recent documentaries of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, which glorify these pop stars despite their mistakes. It’s hilarious how people suck up to Conner in this film, and it feels real when they do.
Andy Samberg is great in the leading role. I love how he uses modern lingo -- hella, dope, fire, etc. -- because those terms all sound dumb, like the character. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are both great as Conner’s respective publicist and manager. Joan Cusack is underutilized as Conner’s mother, and some other supporting roles don’t get as much screen time.
If there’s any problem with Popstar, it’s that it feels more like a series of SNL skits than it does a feature film. I sort of wish that Conner was a recurring character on SNL, because I feel that it could have fit better. Other than that, it’s a little slow in getting to the third act and not every joke hits as hard as they think it will. (Like in almost every comedy)
Popstar is smarter than most people will give it credit for. It’s a one-joke movie, but there are hidden details throughout. For example, there’s a scene where people are arguing about a mishap that happened on stage, which is about to go viral. In the background, on TV, there are real issues being discussed that are being completely ignored. It asks the question: why do we care so much about every single little detail of a celebrity’s life? Isn’t that stupid? (It is.) There’s a scene where Conner goes on Jimmy Fallon and he tries to get him to do an old dance move that the Styleboyz made, which is the most Jimmy Fallon thing ever. There’s a hilarious parody of TMZ. I appreciate these small details and parodies throughout.
Despite feeling more like a series of skits, I enjoyed Popstar quite a bit. It made me laugh, and the points it makes are so straight on it’s hard not to love it. Basically, this movie is #helladope.