A fun film.

by Steve Pulaski

Seeing “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” reminds me how The Lonely Island is one of the few comedy acts from “Saturday Night Live” that not only inspires laughter and rousing entertainment, but also can sustain a feature film. The only other successful skit that translated very well to film would be “Wayne’s World.” For a show that’s served as basic cable entertainment for over forty years, and a show that I’ve always viewed in disinterest, still waiting to laugh for those four decades, the comedy trio The Lonely Island have injected much-needed life into their formula with their self-referential, frequently vulgar, but wry bland of comic humor. Four albums and a barrage of skits later, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone still got it.

With that, they remind us how films featuring the trio can be a real treat with “Popstar,” the first film they’ve all collaborated on together since the underrated and worthwhile “Hot Rod” nearly a decade ago, with Schaffer and Taccone taking the director’s chair. The film is a fake-documentary (one might even say a rock/mockumentary) that takes jabs at not only the life of pop star sensations of the modern day such as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, but also the conventions of these concert-docs like “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “One Direction: This is Us.”

We focus on Conner Friel (known by his stage-name, “Conner4real,” played by Samberg), a pop-rap sensation who got his start with his rap group “The Style Boyz” that inspired some of the biggest hits of yesteryear. Alongside Conner were his two friends, Lawrence (Schaffer) and Owen (Taccone), but in the present, long after the group broke up and Conner has achieved insane success with his solo career, Lawrence has gone on to live life as a farmer after Conner didn’t give him credit for writing his biggest song. Owen, on the other hand, though treated like an irrelevant sideshow act by Conner more often than not, is still by Conner’s side serving as his DJ.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directed by
Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone
Cast
Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer
Release Date
3 June 2016
Steve’s Grade: B


The film focuses on the release of Conner’s sophomore album “CONNquest,” which he wants to do better than his first album, which sold four million copies. After dreams of selling a million a week prove to be nothing more than blind faith, as Conner’s album only sells about 65,000 units, he, Owen, his manager Harry (Tim Meadows), and his publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman) work to try and get Conner to remain on top. This involves striking a deal with an appliance company to have his album uploaded and playable in every appliance from refrigerators to washing machines, as well as continuing to perform wickedly expensive sound-and-light shows at his concerts.

As you can imagine, this only leads him to being an even more contemptible figure than he already is in the public eye. Throughout the film, we see Conner perform a variety of songs on stage, such as his biggest hit, the fun and exuberant “I’m So Humble,” featuring a hologram Adam Levine singing the chorus, a track claiming the Mona Lisa painting is an overrated piece of s***, and even “Equal Rights,” where Conner expresses his belief that people should marry who they want, while asserting he, himself, isn’t gay numerous times.

“Popstar” could also be viewed as one of the biggest cameo films of all time, with Simon Cowell, Ringo Starr, A$AP Rocky, Nas, Emma Stone, Seal, DJ Khaled, Snoop Dogg, P!nk, and more all making appearances at one point or another. Most of their cameos inspire the kind of laughs typical for The Lonely Island brand of humor, in that they’re moronic but whimsical, and often piercingly accurate when they’re trying to satirize the current state of modern pop stars.

Consider the scene right after Conner strikes a lucrative deal with the aforementioned appliance company to have his album installed in every home appliance you can think of. When Owen questions whether or not this is technically selling out, Conner states that selling out is part of a musician’s career nowadays. “If you haven’t sold out yet, people are gonna wonder if you’ve ever been offered to,” Conner says. This couldn’t be a more true observation if the scene was actually from a real documentary.

The only thing “Popstar” fails to examine is how we, the listeners, the concertgoers, and the tabloid-readers, are indeed somewhat responsible for the flaming egotistical narcissists many of these artists turn into. We create fan Twitter pages, favorite and retweet every headline, like every picture, and demand every moment of these artists’ lives, bedazzling the everlasting hell out of a product until we condemn it for being stale or “old.” While a large part of Conner’s narcissism is because of his own volition and obsession with staying relevant, a good part is the way his fans and listeners demand so much for him and the looming feeling that he could be edged out of the spotlight at any time.

With that all being said, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” is a very fun film. You might not remember many of the jokes after the credits roll, but if you look a bit closer, you might remember how the film makes you feel and contemplate while it serenades you with infectious pop rap the entire thing. It will at least make you relish in the fact that The Lonely Island still got it despite not always making headlines.