Some of the most awesomely stupid tunes ever made can be attributed to comedy trio the Lonely Island — aka Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone. Their songs “Lazy Sunday,” “D*** in a Box,” and “I’m on a Boat,” reached near iconic status after debuting on Saturday Night Live. So it's a wonder that it took this long for their work to be showcased on the big screen.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping takes a mockumentary approach to the life of Conner4Real (Samberg), the breakout star from boy band the Style Boyz, which he started with his two best friends, Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer). A highly successful solo debut album puts Conner on the path to superstardom, but a poorly considered second album forces him to fight to stay relevant in the music business.
The naive egotism that Conner displays through much of the film is a highly familiar comedic trope, one that seems to be favored by other SNL alums like Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. But Samberg makes it work by stopping short of complete idiocy, keeping the film somewhat grounded in reality even while showing an almost continuous stream of absurd scenes.
And there is no shortage of ridiculousness in the film. Real music stars like Adam Levine, Pink, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Carrie Underwood, Seal, Usher, and Ringo Starr line up to pay tribute to Conner, praise that is hilariously at odds with the inanity he shows on a daily basis. The veiled potshots at people like Justin Bieber (the movie’s title is reminiscent of his 2011 documentary, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never) and Macklemore (one of Conner’s missteps is an obvious parody of the rapper’s “Same Love”) make the movie even better.
But it’s the music that elevates the movie to greatness. Winners include the “Same Love” parody “Equal Rights”; "I'm So Humble"; “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)”; “Mona Lisa”; and “Legalize It,” a supremely funny song that’s worth staying through the credits for.
Samberg is the star, but Taccone and Schaffer (who co-directed and co-wrote the film) are his equals in every way, selling the movie’s comedy with their reactions as much as anything else. Also great are Tim Meadows as the band’s manager and Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist. The succession of cameos, including Bill Hader, Will Arnett, Justin Timberlake, Weird Al Yankovic, and more keep the laughs rolling.
Popstar doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to music mockumentaries, but it’s a consistently funny film that knows how to deliver on its premise. That’s a lot more than can be said of most summer comedies.