More noise than signal

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

The Lonely Island, composed of yer Andy Samberg, yer Jorma Taccone and yer Akiva Schaffer last gave us a movie entirely of their own creation in 2007 with Hot Rod, a curious beast that’s certainly much more enjoyable than its low profile would indicate. With the one-time SNL Digital Short crew having gone off in various different directions with some success, but nothing stellar, it’s good to see them return to the format that brought them to our attention in the first instance – their uncannily convincing music parodies.

In Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which I am warmed to on the title alone, Samberg takes the lead as megastar Connor4Real, the breakout solo success of previous group Style Boyz. While fellow Style Boy Taccone’s Owen “Kid Contact” Bouchard was a large part of Connor’s new success, working up the beats for him, he’s lately become sidelined as Connor works with hundreds of new producers for his upcoming, highly anticipated album.

The other Style Boy, Schaffer’s Lawrence “Kid Brain” Dunn, one time lyricist, acrimoniously split with Conner and has gone on to become a farmer and whittler of exceedingly poor wooden statuettes. The emotional arc of the film, not that that’s really the focus of it, comes from Conner’s new album flopping, leading to him eventually realising that his crew of paid sycophants aren’t really helping him and the eventual reunion with his previous friends in the Style Boyz, who much like The Lonely Island themselves grew up together.

It’s shot in a mockumentary style, albeit one that like the groups musical output is much more highly produced and slicker than the obvious touchstone of This is Spinal Tap. If anything, it manages to amaze by featuring a group of people, or at the very least Conner, who are substantially more stupid than the members of Spinal Tap, which ought not to be possible.

Narratively, Popstar is never less than predictable, but there’s certainly enough oddball moments to appreciate sprinkled throughout that keeps this firmly in the ‘quirky’ descriptor, and provide most of the non-song related laughs – concepts like Conner provoking outrage by preinstalling his album on washing machines, or the Daft Punk-esque helmet created for Taccone’s character that threatens air traffic by firing a beam of light not unlike Independence Day’s White House murdering laser.

However by far the bulk of the laughs come from the movie’s soundtrack, which is a bit of a double edged sword. While it’s every bit as good as anything they’ve ever done, the inescapable fact is that you can just listen to that on Spotify and get, arguably, more laughs out of that than in watching the film.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to recommend anyone in any doubt about how likely they are to enjoy this film take any sort of chance on it , because the obvious first step would be to recommend listening to the tracks on Spotify our the YouTube account, and by that point you’ve extracted much of the film’s value proposition for free.

If you’re already a fan of The Lonely Island, Popstar delivers enough solid, familiar laughs to make it worth your while. For everyone else, it’s one to catch up with at home rather than seek out a a cinema.