by Michael B. Hock
When I heard that Lonely Island, the rap/comedy trio made up of Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone were making another movie, I was excited. I enjoyed their criminally underrated masterpiece Hot Rod. When I heard it was produced by Judd Apatow, I was a little less excited… I’m a fan of his work but a lot of it boils down to “hey, remember how we all have to grow up?” A subject already handled in the much better Neighbors movies this summer. When I heard it was a Mockumentary, I was even more scared, as the last great musical Mockumentary was really This is Spinal Tap, and there was no way the Lonely Island would be able to crank things up to 11.
Yeah, after watching Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, I was wrong. This movie may be one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
A spoof of such behind the scenes movies from Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and whoever else has a concert to promote, Popstar is about Conner4Real, the breakout star of a boy band called the “Style Boyz”. After getting is breakout appearing on a song, Conner breaks up the boys, with his friend Owen joining him on stage as his DJ (which consists of him hitting “play” on an old iPod) and Lawrence becoming a farmer in one of the saddest farms in America. The movie follows Conner as he launches his second album and his second tour, both to what he calls “mixed” reviews, but to what Rolling Stone gives a “poop emoji” out of four stars. (Pitchfork just gives it a negative four.)
It took me a while to write up this review, because I’ve been processing how to approach it. It’s a hilarious movie, a spot on parody of those self-indulgent movies meant to promote concerts and add drama where there is none. (Although in this case, the Lawrence/Conner emotional plot actually adds some drama to the movie.) Most of the time when a movie has a lot of cameos it can actually be a detriment, but this gets around it by hiding some of it’s best cameos in the background, like Weird Al as an aging rocker, or Emma Stone in a quick music video that launches Conner to solo fame. Rather than spending time saying “wow, guess who that is” you’re laughing, then realizing who it is, then laughing some more.
The movie itself is pretty much a cookie cutter “guy gets rich and forgets where he’s from” type movie, so don’t expect surprises there. But it makes up for all of this by playing up those cliché moments in hilarious fashion, such as Conner’s apology or when he’s making his big, career altering decision. The movie is a parody, but very self aware of what it is parodying, and never strays far. It just works.
There’s one aspect of comedy I do want to point out that the Lonely Island is really good at. They’re really good at making other people really funny, and there isn’t a fear that you aren’t paying attention to Andy Samberg for a few minutes. Jorma gets a lot of great scenes as his DJ, but the big one I want to point out is Tim Meadows, who plays the band’s manager. He plays off Sandberg so well that I could live with a movie that was just the two of them. Especially when he’s playing the dual role of “spinning everything so it’s great” and “Conner needs to be realistic, but he’s not listening to me.” I don’t know that anyone could have played it off as well as him.
Simply put, this is a hilarious movie, boosted by a hilarious cast and a group of people that clearly love what they’re doing. At the time of this writing, not many people are seeing it. That should be fixed.
This is a must see movie for the summer.