Let’s face it: pop stars are ridiculous. Sure they make fun songs that we love to hear on the radio, but sometimes they use their fame and fortune to be total idiots. They erect statues of themselves, they say stupid things, they make idiotic songs, they have unreasonable demands and one of them is this guy. They can make music, but pop stars are just the worst and they’ve deserved a good ribbing for a while now. Now we finally don’t have to stress over it, because The Lonely Island are doing it for us.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping comes to the world from Andy Samberg (co-writer/star), Akiva Schaffer (co-writer/co-director) and Jorma Taccone (co-writer/co-director), the Saturday Night Live alums who helped merge YouTube humor with modern comedy television (take your pick). For their latest cinematic adventure (their first together since 2007’s Hot Rod), they create Connor4Real (Samberg): a cocky doofus in white-boy rapper clothes, faded haircut and millions of adoring fans. He’s got hit songs like “I’m So Humble,” “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” and everyone’s favorite dance number “Donkey Roll.” He’s got a posse of enablers, ass-kissing handlers and an ego that’d make Kanye take two steps back. But when his second album starts getting “mixed” reviews (a -4 on Pitchfork, for example), he goes into crisis mode trying to keep his cool.
Just from the poster alone, you know exactly who Connor4Real is based off of (here’s a hint). But Popstar takes on the laundry list of what’s wrong with the pop music scene: no one cares who’s writing the songs, people are easily distracted by gossip, selling 4 million albums is barely a milestone these days and TMZ are scumbags. But The Lonely Island have two major themes that all popstars suffer from: desperation and ignorance. Connor tries everything to keep his rep up, including getting an opening act like Hunter the Hunted (Chris Redd), an unruly underground rapper with a nasty reputation (seems familiar) or proposing to his fame-obsessed girlfriend Ashley (Imogen Poots) with an army or wolves and a song from Seal. Connor will do anything he thinks is “dope” without the slightest input from anyone else, like releasing his album via streaming from kitchen appliances (again, seems familiar). The Lonely Island’s creation is one of unbridled optimism, which is all the funnier when Connor makes himself look more like a giant tool time after time.
Popstar is a team effort and the lineup is stacked. The likes of Tim Meadows and Sarah
Silverman try to keep their cool as Connor’s business team, while Taccone plays Connor’s DJ/childhood friend trying to keep him happy and Schaffer plays the exiled childhood friend holding a grudge and not doing a great job with it. There’s also a slew of celebrity bit players: some established music stars who get the joke and laugh with it (Usher, DJ Khaled, Nas, P!nk), other random celebrities who probably hate pop stars as much as the main trio (Emma Stone, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Eric Andre). But every team needs a quarterback and Samberg might as well be Tom Brady. He’s game for anything and keeps his big-toothed grin on full display so the audience can imagine punching Connor in the face. Samberg is an ace goofball and he (along with the movie) only falters when the plot gets predictable in the last half hour.
So what’s the lesson of Popstar? Easy: pop stars never learn. No matter how much self-discovery they go through or how much they grow up, they’ll always be big-headed ego maniacs who are rarely as self-aware as they think they are. Popstar doesn’t want to tear down the definition of a modern pop star, far from it. They revel in it and celebrate it because they know they’d probably indulge in Adam Levine’s hologram if they could. It’s the nerdy kids snickering at how lame the popular kids are and it’s easy to love that in a time when these overhyped hacks are considered influential people. Popstar isn’t the full-on war against pop stars that we want, but it’s the silly farce that we all need.
Final Verdict: 3 out of 4 stars