Movie Review - Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
By Jonathan Fuchs, Music Director
From 2005-2013, comedy trio The Lonely Island was one of the biggest comedic acts around. With over 100 Saturday Night Live “Digital Shorts” like “I’m On A Boat” and three Billboard-charting albums, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone were one of the first big comedy acts that started pop culture trends from going viral on YouTube. But after the three left SNL and released The Wack Album in 2013, The Lonely Island went on an unofficial hiatus; there was still some material being made every now and then by individual members, but nothing had the same feel and comedic timing of their older songs and sketches.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, the trio’s debut film and first release in three years, is basically a raunchier, celebrity cameo-packed version of the cult classic This Is Spinal Tap. While at times the film’s humor focuses more on raunchiness over quality, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a great parody of American pop culture that has all the awkward humor The Lonely Island is perfect at creating.
Popstar follows Andy Samberg as Conner4Real, a rich, arrogant pop star who has to revive his career after the flop of his sophomore album. This flop leads to his fame declining rapidly, a personal meltdown, rivalries with other artists and crumbling of the relationships of everyone around him.
The thing Popstar does right is its very smart satire on the bigger, deeper problems with the pop industry. One of the first songs written for the film feels like just a parody of Macklemore’s “Same Love,” with every line in the song being about marriage equality, but ending with the phrase “I’m not gay.” But when you look deeper into the song’s context, it really talks about pop culture’s problem with hetero-normativity and masculinity. There are other key moments in the film that are very effective in its parodying of American pop culture, like the hysterical TMZ spoof and constant documentary-like commentary from artists like Usher, Nas, DJ Khaled, Questlove and A$AP Rocky.
While there are many moments in the film that know how to use its alternative humor to its advantages, there are some scenes that depend solely on immature jokes to get a laugh out of the audience. These moments mainly depend on gross-out nudity or weird violent slapstick that, while still pretty funny, break away from the atmosphere of the film and feel just like any other raunchy R-rated comedy today. Fortunately, they are small and overall painless, but noticeable enough to distract the viewer from the rest of the movie.
Though it sometimes feels predictable and a little sophomoric, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is still a hilarious and absurd satire on the pop industry. Its flow is energetic and entertaining, which will make any audience howl with laughter. It’s a great return for The Lonely Island, as it reminds everyone what we missed so much about the old material we’ve grown to love.