Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a mockumentary about the peak, fall, and rebirth of an arrogant popstar, Connor4Real. Written by comedy sketch / music writing trio, The Lonely Island (comprising of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone), the movie lampoons the various trappings of the pop music industry, combined with the usual random, juvenile humour of The Lonely Island.
The Lonely Island rose to fame during their Saturday Night Live sketch days when many of their segments and songs became internet sensations (see ‘Jizz In My Pants’, ‘Dick In A Box’ and ‘I Just Had Sex’ for the big hitters). Samberg has since gone on to star in the hilarious and successful cop ensemble comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so you know there are some great comedy chops behind Popstar.
Released in 2016, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping joins Connor4Real (Samberg) as he is about to drop his hugely anticipated second album, Connquest. Through some pieces to camera and ‘VH1 Behind The Music’ style segments, we learn that he was once part of the hugely popular trio ‘Style Boyz’ along with childhood friends Lawrence and Owen (Schaffer and Taccone respectively). But after failing to give credit to Lawrence for the Poppy-award winning song, “Turn Up The Beef”, Lawrence leaves the group in disgust to instead work on a farm (carving terrible sculptures), leaving Connor to launch a solo career as Connor4Real, with the meek Owen as his put upon DJ.
The movie wastes no time is showing how Connor has become the epitome of privileged and spoilt. Having never experienced failure, he is surrounded by yes men and has sidelined the people who actually helped him achieve fame. Samberg plays Connor as he plays most of his characters, generally warm hearted but selfish, idiotic, and utterly tone deaf. The first single from Connquest, ‘Equal Rights’ bombs, due in large part to Connor interrupting each verse of the cynically LGBTQI skewed song to sing, “I’m not gay!” each time. There follows various sponsorship and PR disasters, which lead to Connor’s falling from grace, plummeting album sales, and failing tour.
Humour wise, Popstar weaves between lowbrow juvenile jokes and deadpan idiot delivery. The needles about vacuous nature of the pop music world aren’t groundbreaking, but regardless are solid and funny throughout. Connor’s manager (Tim Meadows) tries his best to stop the inevitable collision course that Connor is on and does so with a delightfully straight face. And it would take a stone heart to not feel sorry for Owen when he reluctantly agrees to wear a neon striped (but face covering) helmet ‘to help the tour’, and is reduced to just hitting ‘play’ on his iPod.
The sheer amount of celebrities playing themselves is impressive, and just when you think that it’s all going to be by the numbers idiocy, the final Act injects some genuine heart as Connor gets upstaged by a younger and more fresh artist, and begins to see the error of his ways.
Of course, any musical mockumentary is always going to bump up against This Is Spinal Tap comparisons and is also always going to fall short. But Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping isn’t really going for that angle. Instead it’s using the backdrop of music celebrity to tell the well-worn tale of an entitled fool setting themselves up for defeat (losing friends in the process) whilst using this as a delivery vehicle for the lightning fast nonsense fun of The Lonely Island’s music. The combination is stupid, giggle worthy, and sweet in equal measure.
Interesting, seeing as how Samberg has gone on to solo success in real life, the movie also has subtext of sending him off with the blessing of real life childhood friends Schaffer and Taccone. They realise they all have something to contribute, but that no-one wants to hold anyone back. The movie may be lacking any real bite, but it makes up for it by exposing plenty of heart, after exposing plenty of genitalia.
Words by Michael Record