The Lonely Island's 'Popstar' Is Christopher Guest for the Social-Media Generation
Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never documentary by way of Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap mockumentary. It is a sharp, often hysterical send-up of vapid popstars complete with infectious earworms, insane lyrics, and beats you can donkey-roll to. It’s essentially a series of Digital Shorts loosely held together by a formulaic structure — boy band strikes it big, boy-band lead singer goes out on his own, lead singer enters manufactured relationship, singer is corrupted by fame, and eventually finds his way back to his boy-band roots — but the thinly plotted film is littered with comedic landmines that often go off without warning.
Andy Samberg — who can be at times grating, and other times charming — has found in Conner4Real his perfect doofus, a character he can play for frequent laughs but who has just enough humanity buried underneath that he doesn’t wear out his welcome in this quickly paced mockumentary that smartly gets in and out in under 90 minutes. Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone direct and star as the other two members of The Style Boyz, one of whom ends up as the DJ in Conner’s solo career (he pushes play on the iPod) while the other escapes the life to become a farmer (which he hates). Splicing together TV archival footage and one-on-one interviews with actual popstars with the fake documentary gives it a sheen of authenticity, and the countless cameos keep the comedic momentum moving throughout (everyone is in this, from Nas to Timberlake to Seal (who is attacked by wolves) to Pink to Will Arnett and basically anyone who has ever been on SNL).
In many ways, Popstar feels like a new generation of Christopher Guest films. It’s the exact same brand of comedy, only the wry and clever writing is punctuated with jokes that are more profane, sexual and silly. Like the Christopher Guest films, not every gag works, but Popstar never hits any lulls, either. It’s the kind of movie that’s not likely to perform particularly well at the box office, but like Hot Rod (only much better), it will catch on over time, and it’s full of lines likely to be quoted for years to come. Beware, however: The songs are so catchy you may find yourself idly singing aloud “I’m not gay” or “She wanted me to fuck her harder that the U.S. military fucked Bin Laden.”
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