Friday, June 03, 2016

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Never stop never stopping - whoever came up with that is a genius
I have a framed still from This is Spinal Tap displayed proudly in my house, so you could say I take my music-industry mockumentaries seriously. And while I'm not prepared to say that Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping "goes to eleven," it comes mighty close.

Yes, I'm as surprised as you are. I should preface the rest of this review with the disclaimer that I know waaaaaaaay too much about Justin Bieber (who is clearly the inspiration for main character Conner4Real) and spend waaaaaaaay too much of my time consuming various celebrity-gossip articles and TV shows. If you're not into that scene, a large percentage of Popstar's humor will be lost on you. Whereas I laughed throughout the entire movie. This is one of the few times where I would recommend watching the film's trailer beforehand. If you like it, you will LOVE the rest of the movie. Bonus: most of the trailer's scenes occur within Popstar's first ten minutes, so it's not even giving away the best parts.

The story, written by SNL-digital-short-masters The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone; the latter two also directed), follows Conner4Real (Samberg), a Bieber-esque popstar who was once part of a trio called The Style Boyz. After a falling out, the Boyz break up, and Conner skyrockets to fame as a solo act, while Owen (Taccone) tags along as Conner's DJ, and Lawrence (Schaffer) retreats to life on a rural farm. Schaffer and Taccone shot Popstar as a documentary that takes place as Conner's second solo album, Connquest, is about to drop. As you might have already guessed, the new tracks are met with tepid reception, which throws Conner's world tour into jeopardy. His team scrambles to do everything, anything they can—from securing corporate sponsorships, to lining up a hot new opening act (a fantastic Chris Redd as Hunter the Hungry), to staging a very, very bizarre E! exclusive—to keep Conner in the spotlight and the money rolling in.

r u 4 real?
Short documentary-style interviews with real-life celebrities, musicians and DJs are sprinkled throughout the film, and they are hilarious—Mariah Carey's in particular, and I'm impressed she went along with it. Several other famous faces also pop up in Conner's life as either themselves or other ridiculous characters, and those cameos were also just great. None of them were the kind of cameos that seemed totally pointless (like almost every single one in Zoolander 2), either. One of my favorites was Will Arnett as the head of CMZ. (If you don't know what that's a spoof of, then again, this movie might not be for you.)

If I had one complaint about Popstar, it would be the same complaint I've made about so many recent comedies: all of the f-bombing gets old really quickly, and its cruder gags are also its weakest. But when the laughs revolve around one of Conner's absurd (but catchy!) songs, making fun of our fickle celebrity-obsessed culture, or the many ways that Conner's entourage strokes his ego (Tim Meadows and Sarah Silverman as Conner's manager and publicist are particularly funny), Popstar is in Spinal Tap territory—"no bones" about it.

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