Review: 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' Is the Summer Comedy We’ve Been Waiting For

Neil Feeney ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
For those who were already fans of the New York-based comedy group The Lonely Island, their sense of irrelevant, vulgar, and honestly weird humor is a cool breeze of fresh air compared to the other muddled comedy acts today. They always seem to surprise, no matter what the circumstance. Getting their start on the late night program Saturday Night Live, the trio has always been close. They brought their off-pace humor to every episode, as two of them (Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) were writers, and one (Andy Samberg) was a cast member. From there, they started making comedy music albums, from “Incredibad” to “Turtleneck and Chain,” and “The Wack Album,” all three of which featured their unique style of comedy rap and featured impressive musicians such as Akon, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna, Adam Levine, T-Pain, Hugh Jackman, and Michael Bolton. It was here where they found their comedy home, free of Saturday Night Live’s network restrictions. So it’s only right that their first big budget motion picture should have a music style to it, and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping feels exactly like one of their hilarious albums come to life.
The film is a mockumentary about Conner4Real (Samberg), an overachieving boisterous popstar who is about to release his new album. After the album is released to subpar reviews and followed by a failed tour, Conner must find out what to do about his quickly dying career. Does that mean reconnecting with his boy band (Taccone and Schaffer) that made him famous in the first place or changing his sound? Or does it mean firing some of his dedicated staff (Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, and others)? As Conner struggles to find his way, the audience is taken along for the crazy ride that goes through all aspects of the music industry. In this way, the film acts as an elaborate parody, poking fun at all of the artists that cameo in it, while at the same time legitimizing their reputations through the clever plot. The film weaved in and out of documentary-style prose and little snippets of Conner’s music videos —which are just like the Digital Shorts the Lonely Island would make for Saturday Night Live — and interviews with music greats talking about Conner’s career.
Although the real standout moments of the film aren’t the cameos or the physical comedy: it’s the full album’s worth of Conner’s music, all of which is hilarious and each one is more unpredictable and crazy than the last. Not only that, but it is also so catchy and honestly good original tracks. The film has so many different layers like this, as the comedy is not just in the dialogue, but how it is filmed, through the music, and also through its commentary on the pop culture of today. Not only the stress of the industry on the different artists, but also how music today is all bells and whistles, never any talent or originality. The film doesn’t force this message down the audience’s throats, as the point of the film is the comedy, not the message. And the comedy is where the film shines, as rarely does a joke not deliver or fall flat. There’s not more that can be said without spoiling the unexpected nature of the film, which is part of the ingenious ride that the audience is taken on.
In a world where the comedy genre has become nothing more than improv and slapstick humor, a film where the comedy is unexpected should be welcomed and praised. Unfortunately, audiences rely on name recognition, which is why un-inspired works like Neighbors 2 will do better than the hilarious original works like The Nice Guys. Although this is exactly what The Lonely Island aims to fix. Completely original, hilarious on multiple levels, and more celebrity cameos that one can count, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a film that never fails to impress and surprise, something that the comedy genre has been needing for awhile.
Overall Grade: A-
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