It’s been nine years since the comedy trio Lonely Island—Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer—made its cinematic debut with the now cult fave Hot Rod.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping gives them a chance to play in their favorite sandbox: the music world. The results are what feel like the first fully realized Lonely Island movie. Given how damn funny the movie is, let’s hope there are many more to follow.
All three members of the Lonely Island contribute as writers and performers, while Taccone and Schaffer handle directing chores. The movie goes along the mockumentary route, clearly spoofing all of those bio films from the likes of Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry.
Samberg headlines as Conner 4 Real, a former member of the boy band/rap group the Style Boyz, who has gone his own way with a successful solo career. After that initial success, Conner’s latest solo album is tanking—Rolling Stone rated it a shit emoji—and his career handling has entered the panic phase. He goes on tour with an opening act that’s better than him. He gets sponsored by appliances that play his music when you operate them. And he basically sells out like a whore.
A good chunk of the movie features what Lonely Island does best—silly parody songs. “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” has Conner reminiscing about a girl who wants him to do her with the military efficiency that was in force when the U.S. Navy SEALS shot Bin Laden in the head. “Equal Rights” is Conner’s sad attempt to ally himself with the LGBT community that has him subliminally reinforcing his heterosexuality throughout the song.
The film revels in the random and weird, including a sequence where Conner has to sign somebody’s dick through a limo window—a dick that, according to many stories on the internet, belongs to the film’s producer, Judd Apatow—and a wedding proposal gone bad when the wolves supplied by PartyWolves.com become agitated by Seal’s singing voice.
A great running gag riffs on the likes of Danger Mouse and Daft Punk, with Conner’s DJ, former Style Boyz member Owen (Taccone, in his best screen role yet), wearing a cumbersome helmet that shoots out blinding light and a roar akin to Godzilla’s.
There’s also the final Style Boyz member, Lawrence (Schaffer) who left the group in a rancorous split and became a farmer (perhaps a poke at former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry). Some of the movie’s best moments involve him being interviewed in his shed among his drab woodwork.
Other players include the great Tim Meadows as Conner’s shifty manager, Bill Hader in a quick but welcomed cameo, and Chris Redd as Conner’s wild-eyed opening act, Hunter, who may or may not have orchestrated a gag that made it look like Conner has no dick. Yes, there’s a lot of dick humor in this film. This film might be the all-time king for dick humor. There’s also a blessed appearance by the one-and-only Michael Bolton.
The members of Lonely Island are so cool they’ve made Michael Bolton cool. Michael Bolton.
Samberg finally gets a worthy follow up to Hot Rod, and he is on-the-mark funny for the film’s entire running time. Taccone, who rocked it as Chaka in Land of the Lost, shows off his versatility as the film’s funny emotional core. The big surprise is Schaffer, coming out of the shadows of Lonely Island to show off some major comic timing and acting chops.
Sadly, I just saw a box office report that shows Popstar is going to bomb, big time, so there you have it. Somebody makes a comedy that’s funny from beginning to end, and they get their ass kicked by a bunch of sewer-dwelling turtles.
Hey, if it’s turtles you are looking for, Popstar features a turtle prominently. Yes, it’s a barfing turtle with a serious bone disorder, but it’s a turtle all the same.
Big box office or not, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping will be regarded as a beloved look at a music world gone completely nuts. Years from now, people who passed on this in the theaters will catch it on TV and give it some life.