Classic Movie Reviews

Classic Review: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” which originally appeared here.

Childhood friends Conner (Andy Samberg), Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) found fame and fortune after forming the hip-hop group the Style Boyz. Owen and Lawrence faded into the background when frontman Conner left the band to launch a successful solo career. Now, the egotistical singer decides to film a documentary about his life while he’s still on top. When his second album flops, the camera is there to capture his world come crashing down.

I’ve always been a big fan of The Lonely Island and their music and their digital shorts on Saturday Night Live. They have all been very memorable and also funny and genius full of great characters and moments. Even today, I still have a lot of them in my head. The problem about Saturday Night Live sketches is that it isn’t always easy to turn a sketch of a few minutes into a feature length film. Many have tried and much fewer have actually succeeded.

This film was presented in a concert mockumentary style, chronicling the rise of a man named Conner (Samberg) and his career from a member of the hip-hop group the Style Boyz to a performer named Conner4Real. This featured a lot of behind the scenes content and some one-on-one interviews with characters and fake celebrity interviews featuring the likes of Mariah Carey, Simon Cowell, and Carrie Underwood just to name a few and there’s a lot more where that came from as they appear throughout. The weaving in of these interviews and moments worked very well here.

Conner started off as part of the Style Boyz along with his friends Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer) but as his popularity began to rise, the band soon broke up and now Conner has become a rather oblivious celebrity. He now is surrounded by yes men which render him unaware of how ridiculous he is. Examples of this include singing a song about how much of a star he is, how great he is at everything, how he’s a generally fantastic guy, and how he’s “so humble”. This sheer ridiculousness of his character, which will surely remind viewers of some of the “stars” of today, was hilarious.

Not only does it criticize pop stars themselves but also the whole pop star culture as a whole. It also parodies such aspects of pop media as TMZ, the invasiveness of paparazzi, ridiculousness entourages, out-of-control egos, and the commercialization of celebrity. It’s depiction of a TMZ-like program was just so over-the-top in how it makes fun of celebrity culture. Some of the stuff is just so crazy that you will have to see it for yourselves.

What made this all work was the chemistry between Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer as Conner, Owen, and Lawrence. It’s not really hard since they are all friends and members of The Lonely Island. The acting from the three of them was great here, especially their comedic timing. This just made it so fun to watch them together despite Schaffer’s Lawrence coming along a little later on into the film. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise with the three both writing and directing the film. The supporting cast featuring Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist Paula and Tim Meadows as Conner’s manager Harry were great here as well and they had great chemistry with everyone too. Basically, everyone just worked here.

From the performances to the smart writing, this was just a very funny film. The majority of the comedy just worked here and if there was an off chance that something didn’t work, they would quickly move on to something else. Because that’s what the film did, it didn’t hang around too long at any given time. It moved at a pretty brisk pace which helped since it didn’t drag out any of the bits and also being a relatively short film, clocking in at 86 minutes, helped with this. Without giving anything away, other than in one-on-one interviews, the film featured a lot of other celebrity cameos which were great and mostly hilarious. Justin Timberlake in a fish costume? But the best part of the film has to be the songs which are just a culmination of the film’s ridiculousness. Some of them have been featured in the trailers and have such great titles as “I’m So Humble”, “Equal Rights”, and “Mona Lisa”.

Overall, this is a smart and funny film, full of energy and enthusiasm, with great performances, and will be remembered for a long time.

Score: 9/10

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