It has been a good few weeks for comedies as we have seen Keanu, The Nice Guys and now Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping in barely a month’s worth of time. I was on board with this one the moment that The Lonely Island announced they were making a movie that takes place in the world of pop music. I hate that I’m about to say this sentence but…sigh…I’ve been a fan of The Lonely Island since the early days. Before they struck in big on SNL and instead were performing weird internet songs like Stork Patrol and doing The ‘Bu. I remember being excited seeing them on SNL because damn it, they deserved the success.
The Lonely Island, for me at least, have always struck the perfect balance of music and comedy. They write lyrics that are genuinely funny, and those lyrics are contained within songs that would still be catchy and listenable even without the jokes. They’ve had a pretty incredible track record, releasing a highly impressive number of viral hits whose popularity remains ever years later. Seriously, how many novelty tracks have endured as well as Dick in a Box or Lazy Sunday or I’m On A Boat? Popstar finds a perfect showcase for their musical and comedic talents and god damn is it ever funny.
Popstar is a mockumentary that follows pop superstar Connor4Real (Samberg) who is on the verge of releasing his second solo album, dubbed the most anticipated album of the decade. Connor, along with friends Owen and Lawrence (the other members of The Lonely Island, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) once were part of a pop trio called The Style Boyz before infighting led to the group breaking up. Connor went solo, keeping Owen around as his DJ whose sole role is to press play on an iPod, while Lawrence went off to become a farmer. Connor’s album debuts to terrible reviews and mediocre sales, leading to a desperate attempt to stay relevant any way he can.
The trailers for Popstar make it seem like a non-stop parade of cameos, leading to jokes that are nothing more than “Ha! That’s a famous person I know! Crazy!” While the cameos are plenty, and do lead to some of the film’s funniest moments, they are largely rapid fire and are by no means the focus. Only one cameo lasts longer than a few seconds actually now that I think about it. So no need to fear a reliance on easy gags. Besides, if cameos aren’t your thing, there is an “Airplane” level of jokes being flung at you at any given moment. It’s the kind of movie where I know I missed things that I can’t wait to catch on a second viewing. I hardly went a few minutes without a big laugh, and even between those times I had a wide ass smile on my face. The jokes are relentless and you barely have time to process the ones that don’t land as two more have likely already happened at that point.
Of course the soundtrack is going to be a huge draw for any fan of the group and while many of the songs are only presented in snippets, they are easily amongst the best material they have released. I knew this movie had me right away with “Equal Rights”, a song fighting to end discrimination against homosexuals that spends most of its time loudly reiterating just how straight Connor is. I didn’t even wait until I got home to buy the soundtrack. I bought it on my phone while standing in the theatre lobby. That’s how good this soundtrack is.
Though Popstar frequently dabbles in the absolutely insane, it also works as a surprisingly effective takedown of the current state of pop music. Connor actually isn’t that many steps away from most of what we see in today’s superstars, with his out of control ego and on stage theatrics ringing pretty close to home. You can tell they really cared about creating the world here and there is a genuine sincerity to the whole thing. Connor’s character arc is certainly not original, but there’s a sweetness to the central characters (it’s nice to see both Taccone and Schaffer get central roles as I’m used to them being behind the scenes) that makes the movie work better than if Connor was just a cartoonish asshole.
Seriously, it’s incredibly hard to write this review because all I want to do is start listing out all of the jokes I thought were hilarious or the songs that you have to go to listen to. But you just have to see it. I really can’t see this not being the funniest movie of the year. And if it’s not, then holy shit are we ever in for a treat with whatever mystery movie comes out and tops it! If you have ever enjoyed anything The Lonely Island has done, especially in their music, this is something to check out. It’s opening night as I write this and I’m terrified to see the box office numbers as this feels like the definition of a movie that won’t make the money it deserves. Don’t let it become the next Hot Rod! Go give it your money! DO YOU NOT LIKE TO LAUGH?! DOES YOUR SOUL NOT DESERVE LAUGHTER?! TREAT YO’SELF!