I was first introduced to The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) in my college days, when they became a hit on the web with parody songs such as ‘Dick In A Box’ and ‘I’m On A Boat’. I was reminded of them again when I saw Samberg playing the lead, Jake Parolta, in ‘Brooklyn 99’ (watch it if you don’t already), and now they’re all over the internet again with their newest feature-length parody film ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’.
Samberg is great at playing an idiot – whether he’s immature, narcissistic, or just plain stupid, you can’t help but love him. This time round he’s Conner4Real, a successful performer who has launched a solo career after his original band Style Boyz (Taccone as Owen and Schaffer as Lawrence) disbanded. Owen’s now his rather simplistic DJ, and Lawrence has gone to live on a farm and feel bitter about Conner4Real gaining all the credit for his work. After Conner gets some bad reviews on his new album Connquest, he realises that he needs to do whatever possible to stay in the media, although it doesn’t always work the way as planned.
‘Popstar’ is parallel to ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ in many ways, which most people will remember fondly as pretty much the king of music mockumentaries. This isn’t a bad thing though, as ‘Popstar’ really does take on a life of its own, and the constant line after line of humour is hilarious at points because it’s just so relatable (as ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ was in the ‘80s). Samberg mocks a whole host of different celebrities, many of which have cameo roles and so join in the fun (Mariah Carey strongly relating to a song called ‘I Am Humble’ was one of the key jokes for me). It’s not harsh though, and there’s no bad taste – a couple of moments are a bit outrageous, but it’s all done in jest.
As ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ did, ‘Popstar’ introduces a whole host of hilariously inappropriate songs throughout the film such as ‘Equal Rights’, promoting both gay marriage and the assurance that Conner4Real is in fact straight, and ‘Mona Lisa’, which describes the painting model as “the original basic bitch”– not exactly music you’d play to your Nan, but brilliant in that they’re both comical and surprisingly catchy. We’re also introduced to Chris Redd’s Hunter the Hungry, based on Tyler, The Creator halfway through – a prankster rapper whose insanity levels are a little higher than they should be. Redd is definitely one of the stars of the show, creating hilarious comedy but again doing so without malice.
Some of the cameos are a little random (why are you there, Snoop Dogg?) but the sheer amount of them and the willingness to laugh at themselves shows just how successful The Lonely Island have become since they started doing comedy sketches back in 2005. For the genre that it is it’s also beautifully shot and uses lots of clever techniques to enhance the comedy. Weirdly The Style Boyz emulate The Lonely Island in a way (with Samberg going off to do his own thing in the acting world), though whether that was intentional or not perhaps we’ll never know.
Don’t write ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’ off as a ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ copy because it’s anything but – Samberg has just proven once again that satire can be hilarious even when it’s light-hearted. 4/5
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