Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

'Popstar' movie poster

Release: Friday, June 3, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Akiva Schaffer; Jorma Taccone; Andy Samberg

Directed by: Akiva Schaffer; Jorma Taccone 

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping represents the strongest extended skit Andy Samberg has developed since his SNL days. Despite the contrived manner in which conflict is resolved, Popstar stays fresh, rarely succumbing to its own silliness as it takes aim at the vapid culture surrounding top-brand pop artists in today’s music industry.

Of course it’s Samberg to whom we’re indebted the most. As he has volunteered himself as the honorary jackass, the simultaneous pro- and antagonist leading the charge in another satirical stabbing at the entertainment industry, he stands to lose the most. He plays Connor Friel, a name that just has to be modified for the stage — Connor4Real. So cheesy it just has to be fattening. Samberg thrusts himself into the spotlight as an ultra-successful, Billboard 200-topping artist whose morbidly obese ego won’t be lost on those who lap up anything with Kanye’s name on it . . . or maybe it’ll appeal even more to those who can’t stand him, I’m not entirely sure. (Don’t let the title fool you; this is a shakedown of the entire music industry, not just pop stars.)

Taking the form of a mockumentary, this feels like something you might catch on VH1, though you might have to tune in at 2 a.m. to get the fully uncensored version. It introduces Connor and his childhood friends Owen and Lawrence (co-writer/directors Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, respectively), the guys with whom he had found early success since his days with The Style Boyz. As the story develops, so do the tropes: the meteoric rise to fame, the fall from it, the varying degrees of success experienced by each former member thereafter.

We pick up in the present as Connor is preparing to release a follow-up to the sensation that was his debut album, Thriller, Also. Unfortunately said follow-up, Connquest, gets released to scathing reviews and in no short order it’s deemed a massive failure, even commercially. (Figures for the week are something in the thousands, as opposed to the predicted upper-hundreds of thousands, bordering on millions.) Before it’s all over Connor will be bidding embarrassing adieus to his agent (Tim Meadows), his girl (Imogen Poots), his dignity, even the loyalty of the only other remaining member of The Style Boyz.

That’s before he realizes the rift between the Boyz is the very thing that’s holding him back from true stardom. That’s before the epiphany hits: ‘gee, maybe I’m as much at fault for the fall out as the others. Maybe it’s time I humble myself.’ So they get back together again — a veritable bromantic moment that actually carries some weight thanks to the well-established personalities — for a reunion show/finale guaranteed to inspire Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus to step up their game.

The picture is not only energetic and engrossing (and ruthlessly satirical, in case that wasn’t obvious), but it’s efficient, clocking in at under 90 minutes. Popstar is poignant in the way it captures the various personalities in their natural habitats. Connor’s surrounded by his lavish worldly possessions (think: MTV’s Cribs); Owen can always be found behind his keyboard(s) and Lawrence, disillusioned by the entire music industry, opts for a more rural lifestyle. Now he lives on a farm, tending to his crops. (Pssst, it’s a Judd Apatow production so you know that ain’t okra.)

Even if the execution is largely by-the-numbers, the personalities are larger than life, and it is Connor’s that we’re concerned with the most. Ultimately it’s the only one that really matters.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.56.52 PM

Recommendation: I’m unsure if there are any real takeaways from this comedy; you know, other than what any well-adjusted adult already knows to be true of certain celebrities. The vanity surprises no one here and as a result this isn’t exactly the most revelatory satire you’ll come across. To Popstar‘s credit, there’s no lecturing or condescension. It’s kind of a warning siren for stars on the rise Justin Bieber: don’t be a douche. Fans of Andy Samberg/SNL need apply.

Rated: R

Running Time: 86 mins.

Quoted: “Ever since I was born, I was dope.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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15 thoughts on “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

  1. Nice review Tom. I agree its probably not the greatest satire, but as a comedy, I think it really succeeds because it just hits you with the laughs constantly. And I really liked and enjoyed that. Plus, its like 87 minutes long and just whiffs by.

  2. My first thought was Justin Bieber when I saw the trailer but Kanye yeah when I think about it. I’m glad it’s short. It sounds a bad idea to go longer this that.

    • Yeah it certainly won’t be too demanding on your schedule. Its definitely a fun flick man but ultimately nothing that will really be remembered come next Feb. I do like how Samberg has come up with these original songs for the movie. Listened to a couple today and they’re better than I remembered!

  3. Loved this, of course it’s painfully predictable though. If I’m not counting The Nice Guys, might actually be my favorite comedy of the summer. I watched twice, and laughed just as hard the first time, if not more!

    Only thing I’ve been disagreeing with on other takes is the extended skit statement. To me, I actually feel like this warrants a full-length feature, and I wouldn’t have minded if the movie went about 15 minutes longer. I think I would have bought the ending more if it did.

    God this did zilch at the box office.

    • I don’t know, this plays out kind of hit-and-miss. Like, I laughed a lot throughout and I do like Andy Samberg but to me it’s hard to look past the fact this is just another extension of his SNL stuff. Not necessarily a bad thing. He’s found success unlike some post-SNL. This is a good example of what Samberg brings to the table

    • He can carry a film pretty effortlessly, right? I had a lot of fun too but there was a lot of things that could have been better about it. I guess that’s a given though, for these sorts of things. 🙂

  4. I saw this weeks ago and still have yet to write a review. I’m probably more like a 4. Agreed it was like an extended skit. Would have been been better edited up and shown in short segments on SNL.

    • Definitely. I won’t deny that I had a few good hard laughs here though. Some of the things Samberg does are just ridiculous. He’s gott

    • Yeah I think Popstar makes it clear pretty quick that it only has interest in entertaining Andy Samberg fans. It could be really arduous to get through if someone doesn’t buy into his act. That said, I did enjoy it but it isn’t anything memorable. You’re not missing too much by skipping it.

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