Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – 5 out of 5
I’m a big fan of documentaries and, as if by genetics or some mystical force, I’m also a fan of the mockumentary. Hell, when I was in college my roommate and I made a mockumentary that was about a bigfoot-like creature that tormented the grounds of the campus. I won’t pretend it was an amazing film. It was just a goofy, totally ridiculous thing my buddies and I made to amuse ourselves and kill our free time with. Why am I telling you this? Partially because I’m reminding myself of my good old college days but mostly to put into context how I feel about the sub-genre that is the mockumentary. What I’m saying is that I’m a fan so I was pretty excited to sit down and watch Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. The fact it was made by The Lonely Island boys only upped my expectations.
|This picture only pertains to the review because it was in the movie and I'm|
including it because...well...I think that reason is obvious.
|I hope they say their names and what they're |
here to say.
After the breakup of his rap group, The Style Boyz, Conner Friel (Andy Samberg) breaks out on his own as Conner4Real. He takes off in popularity like a rocket with one of his former rap partners; Owen (Jorma Taccone), at his side as his DJ. However, the final member of The Style Boyz; Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), didn’t come along for the ride and he and Conner formed a great deal of animosity between them. After his latest record is met with bad reviews and poor sales, Conner goes on a tour to try and get his cred back but, after an endless barrage of embarrassing moments strike, it seems like his career is on a collision course with rock bottom.
|Andy Samberg is incredibly believable as a pop star.|
Mockumentaries are incredibly hard—especially when they are comedies that involve a heavy dose of satire. If they can’t nail down the clichés and tropes that come with documentaries while simultaneously nailing the tricky balance of parody-based comedy then the whole thing is a wash. If the movie never feels like a documentary or, at worst, the satire aspect comes off childish like how so many parody films are now, then it’s hard not to consider the entire film a failure. Popstar is far, far, far, far, far and so many more fars away from a failure. In fact, this might be one of the best comedy-based mockumentaries I have ever seen.
|Jorma Taccone (pictured) and Akiva Schaffer really understood documentaries|
in-and-out in order to create an amazing mockumentary.
The whole film feels legit and looks like what you’d see on a typical documentary. Everything from the filming techniques to the interviews and narration that the characters provide all look perfect. They even use this format exceptionally well to craft some excellent and very memorable gags. This path is mirrored in the film’s use of Conner’s pop songs. Rather than point a finger at the tropes of modern popular music and just make fart noises and call it a parody, this film crafts absolutely stellar music that is capable of both honoring and playfully teasing what we see in Top Ten hits nowadays. This film is truly an example of how parodies are supposed to work. Parodies aren’t about straight making fun of what you are lampooning. Exceptional parodies are all about simultaneously honoring the subject material and making light of it at the same time. Popstar does this formula phenomenally and helps recall a time when the parody was a respected art and not just kinda/sorta referencing something and adding dick jokes and pop culture references like we see now in things made by Jason Freidberg and Aaron Seltzer.
|In retrospect, I probably could have picked a better screencap for Akiva Schaffer.|
Alongside some terrific humor, an excellent presentation, and some fantastic music, Popstar has a killer cast of hilarious comedic performers and cameos from musicians who add to the film’s credibility. You already have Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer just destroying it on the comedy front but they are backed up by the likes of Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, and Joan Cusack—and that’s not even including the talented comedic performers showing up for short scenes that practically steal the film. Finally, you get cameos from musicians like Ringo Starr, Nas, Usher, Akon, Adam Levine, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Pink, DJ Khaled and so many more and they not only help sell the reality of Conner4Real but pretty much gives the mockumentary cred and sells the legit feeling it’s giving off.
|Hologram Adam Levine might have been my favorite cameo in this film.|
The last ingredient of this comedy mockumentary is the humor and I really think Popstar delivered effectively well. There’s a great balance of satire, absurd silliness and even a dash of toilet humor at play here and it made for a movie that kept the laughs coming. One thing I have to repeat that I feel this film nailed , above all else, was the satires and parodies. For example, there’s a parody of TMZ done by Will Arnett, Chelsea Peretti, Mike Birbiglia and Eric André and it was definitely one of my favorite parts of the film. It was, once again, a fantastically crafted scene of comedy that isn’t poking a mean-spirited finger and making fun of TMZ (which could be pretty easy to do when you consider the nature of TMZ) but rather it’s a send up of the clichés you see with them and it resulted in some of my favorite moments of the film. This is the formula the film took with all its work of satire and it made for a ridiculously amusing experience.
|Seriously, my favorite scenes in the film!|
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a fantastically modeled comedy that doesn’t sell itself short by sticking to one style of comedy but, rather, perfectly blends a rich tapestry of varying comedy styles under a expertly and technically fantastic crafted mockumentary roof. Thanks to a great cast and a terrific script, the laughs come frequently in this one and I can definitely see this one entering into a semi-regular rotation.