07th Jun2016

‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Joan Cusack, Imogen Poots, Chris Redd, James Buckley, Edgar Blackmon | Written by Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer | Directed by Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone

Popstar-NSS-poster

What do you get if you take the outrageous gross-out comedy of producer Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, Superbad, Knocked Up) and the trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, collectively known as comedy pop songsters The Lonely Island? Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping  – a faux-documentary which is (and this may sound bombastic) the This is Spinal Tap for the Justin Bieber generation.

The story is the flimsiest of plots: the film goes behind the scenes as former The Style Boyz member (think New Edition meets Beastie Boys) turned solo artist singer/rapper Conner4Real (Samberg) faces a crisis of popularity after his sophomore album flops, leading his entire career into a unrecoverable talispin – leaving his fans, sycophants and rivals all wondering what to do when he’s no longer the dopest star of all… Though to be fair that concise plot is little more than a set-up for some gloriously ridiculous The Lonely Island songs and some spot-on digs at the music industry and the current state of piss-poor pop music (or as we like to call it around the Nerdly office: derpy songs!). All tied together by hilarious jokes; tits, dicks and arses; and a fantastic central performance by Andy Samberg as the Justin Bieber-esque Connor4Real.

Yet despite the obvious parody of Justin Bieber (and especially Jon M. Chu’s road movie Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), Popstar is also something of a sly dig at The Lonely Island. OK, so the trio have never taken themselves seriously, yet here they manage to even parody themselves – from the fact a lot of their songs are nothing more that a set of catchphrases strung together; to the notion that Andy Samberg – now more famous for TV sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine – has left his old friends behind (one of the key plot points of this film in fact).

And though this may be a film by The Lonely Island (the trio between them act, write and direct the film), this is still very much a classic ensemble comedy – something Samberg has experience with on his successful TV show. Here he brings in SNL talent old and new – including Maya Rudolph and Tim Meadows (who steals 90% of the scenes he is in FYI). Samberg even has the best foil in Chris Redd, who plays the kind of money/fame-hungry “rapper” that we see clogging up MTV today, a character who is at once a friend and nemesis of Connor4Real.

At it’s core though, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the culmination of all those The Lonely Island music videos that have made audiences laugh and cry (tears of joy may I add), condensed into a feature-length movie, using the same visual style, the same outrageous imagery and – most importantly – the same OTT lyrical flow to create a story that is, honestly, the pop-parody to end all pop-parodies.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is out now in the US, the film hits UK cinemas on August 26th.

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