“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” – Andy Samberg made a career by writing and starring in hilarious digital shorts on “Saturday Night Live”. They ranged from “Lazy Sunday” – in which he and fellow cast member Chris Parnell rap about watching “The Chronicles of Narnia” (2005) and eating cupcakes – to the infamous/famous “D*** in a Box”, a duet with Justin Timberlake about their sexually explicit Christmas gifts for their respective girlfriends.
Although ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic parodied music videos for decades, Samberg’s work does not satire other artists’ songs but instead, carries original and effectively-ridiculous concepts like the aforementioned music videos. Samberg is not afraid to push boundaries and press touchy buttons, and these qualities make his digital shorts – even though they spill into depths of bad taste and purposely lack common sense – memorable.
In “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”, Samberg uses the same brilliantly-insane four-minute formula with his pals from The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) – who also co-wrote “Lazy Sunday”- and they extend their ideas into an 86-minute mockumentary about a popstar doofus named Conner4Real (Samberg). As far as mockumentaries go, this is a good one, and its narrative uses a similar downward-spiral path as the legendary comedy, “Spinal Tap” (1984).
Now, Conner4Real’s career jumpstarted as a member of a rap trio with a serious case of arrested development, The Style Boyz (Schaffer, Taccone and Samberg). These man-children look and perform like an alternative universe version of The Beastie Boys, and they rose to superstardom as well. The movie offers a retrospective of off-color Style Boyz moments, while plenty of artists and producers like Usher and D.J. Khaled give high accolades of the group’s efforts. Unfortunately, paradise cannot last forever, and Conner4Real leaves the group and sells millions of copies of his first solo record.
As the film picks up in present day, Conner4Real just released his second solo album and wants to conquer the world with an arena tour, but a collection of mishaps – and more importantly, a collection of bad songs from his new album – dog our 2016 musical hero. Conner4Real mistakenly weaves political topics into his new music, and the results – via a music video from the first single and performances in front of live audiences, which resemble a busy Katy Perry/Justin Bieber/Justin Timberlake-like production – are disastrous, but also painfully funny. Much of the fun comes Conner4Real’s sincere portrayal of his art.
He delivers lyrics, choreography and onstage special effects with a deadly seriousness to entertain his audience and offer important messages, but since they are wrapped in such tepid ideas, they trigger hardy and rapid-fire laughs. Schaffer and Taccone directed the film, and they absolutely jam the first hour with a barrage of jokes, quips and spoofs on modern media practices and the music promotion business. Most of the shots hit their comedic targets, as we, the audience, feel a bit dizzy from the farcical delight.
After the movie ended, I commented to a friend that I’ll need to see it again, because I could not remember most of the jokes which whizzed by at breakneck speeds. On the other hand, sometimes the humor ventures into very vulgar territory, and unnecessarily, I think, including a two-minute sight gag in front of a limousine window which dragged on for about 1 minute and 59 seconds too long.
(Yes, the movie is rated R for very good reasons.)
For unknown reasons, the last 30 minutes does not keep up with the first hour’s pace and drags while Schaffer, Taccone and Samberg try to address some life lessons for Conner4Real, but, admittedly, the film does connect again with – of course – a final song.
In addition to a slew of musical cameos, many SNL alums make some welcoming appearances too. Sure, with several SNL cast appearances and the overall lampoon-like atmosphere, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” does feel – at times – like a four-minute sketch stretched over 1 hour 26 minutes, but with so many laughs, Conner4Real’s persona will sear into your brain’s permanent and happy memory banks, even if you do not remember all of the jokes.
Speaking of Memory Lane, I need to watch “Lazy Sunday” again. Narnia and cupcakes.
Image credits: Universal Pictures, Trailer credits: Movieclips Trailers