The comedy trio of The Lonely Island, which consists of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Shaffer, rose to prominence with their musical parodies that appeared on Saturday Night Live, like the infamous “Dick in a Box” or “I’m on a Boat.” Their first foray into feature length comedy wasn’t received well critically or at the box office, but over time Hot Rod has become a cult classic. Returning to the big screen, The Lonely Island reaches incredible highs with the utterly hilarious Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. A laugh-a-minute movie with more jokes crammed into 90 minutes than any other feature of recent memory, Popstar is also a clever subversion of the vacuous life of celebrities in the modern era.
Unfolding in a mockumentary style, Popstar tells the story of Conner4Real (Samberg), currently one of the world’s biggest acts in music. Conner rose to prominence as part of the Style Boyz, a group he founded with Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Shaffer) before going solo. Owen has stayed by Conner’s side working has his DJ while Lawrence has turned his back on the music business and focuses on farming in Colorado. Over time, Conner has insulated himself with an entourage of sycophants, including his publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman) and manager Harry (Tim Meadows). Conner’s much anticipated follow up album to his hit Thriller, Also underperforms, and is soon overshadowed on his own tour by the latest flavor of the month, the emerging hip hop star Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd). Soon Conner finds himself in a personal and professional crisis as he begins to meltdown in a very public manner.
Directed by Taccone and Shaffer from a script by all three members of The Lonely Island, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is relentless in just hurtling jokes at the audience. What’s most impressive is just how many of the jokes land, and the fact that you’ll be cracking up means that you’ve likely missed two or three other jokes. Popstar will undoubtedly be a comedy that will benefit from repeat viewings as jokes that might’ve been drowned out will rise to forefront with another go-round. The songs that they’ve crafted for this increasingly amusing film will stand on their own, such as a braggadocious anthem entitled “I’m So Humble” and a remarkably tone deaf song about gay rights among others. Like the film’s gags, the songs have such density to their humor that it’s impossible to pick up on everything on a single pass.
Samberg shines as the hapless Conner, blending the characters overflowing hubris with a wide-eyed idiocy. But it’s not up to Samberg to carry the film on his own, as Taccone and Shaffer are also excellent in their roles, and are given plenty of help by some SNL alums in Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader. Some of the film’s funniest moments come from a TMZ-styled program (here known as CMZ), featuring riotous cameos from Will Arnett, Chelsea Peretti, Mike Birbiglia, and Eric André – be sure not to leave the movie right away as these characters appear one last time. A number of famous musicians make amusing appearances throughout the film as themselves and typically are quite effective as they recite their lines as if they’re not in on the joke.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is among of the year’s best comedies, one that packs the most punch in its 90-minute package. The variety of jokes and how they play out are all equally impressive, alternating between physical gags, pop culture zingers, and jokes that build from story and character. There’s only an ever-so brief stretch at the end of Popstar where The Lonely Island takes their foot off the gas for a minute, seemingly an act of mercy to allow the audience to catch their breaths. Popstar is a great skewering of our modern obsession with celebrity culture, how we consume the stories of ascent and decline in the media. Sometimes it can be hard to find the smarts when all you’re being inundated with are dumb characters performing dumb actions, but Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is so effectively relentless in delivering hearty laughs that it’s impossible to deny the brilliance on display. My only complaint is that can’t sing any of the songs in public (NSFW).
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
- Overall Score
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is non-stop laugh riot that makes most of The Lonely Island’s multiple talents in one of the year’s funniest movies.