Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016, dir. Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer)
Popstar is in theaters now
Never Stop Never Stopping is the second film from the comedy collective known as The Lonely Island. And it is a funny film. You will laugh a number of times. But, like cotton candy, it will be dissolved and forgotten by the time you walk out of the theater.
The film is mockumentary based around Connor4Real (Andy Samberg), an obvious Justin Bieber/Justin Timberlake analog. Connor was once a member of a boy band in the late 1990s/late 2000s that fell apart when he went solo. He still keeps band member Kid Contact (Jorma Taccone) as his DJ while Kid Brain (Akiva Schaffer) clumsily runs a farm in Colorado and still holds a grudge. Connor’s latest album has dropped and the conceit of the film is that we’re watching a mega popstar on the downfall.
I have never been a huge fan of The Lonely Island. I can imagine had I been a bit younger, watching them in my dorm room, but I think I was a little past their peak. I’ve found their music and accompanying videos to vary in quality. It’s often pretty sophomoric humor, with the occasional interesting progressive edge, but usually dick jokes. They are one of those comedy groups that are seemingly obsessed with nostalgia for the 1990s and so their humor, like Family Guy, is more referential than actually satirical.
This means Popstar becomes a missed opportunity to create a This Is Spinal Tap for the modern pop music industry. You’ll likely see this film being compared to that seminal mockumentary but it is nowhere near as cutting. If you were to create a scale for these types of pictures you’d have Spinal Tap on the satire side, Walk Hard in the center, and Popstar on the inoffensive end. And this has been my issue with the comedy coming out of Saturday Night Live for a few years now. Even when the humor is based around political events, the writing seems scared to actually approach a point. So the humor is derived from a shared recognition of a mannerism or voice, instead of making a point about an ideology.
If you go to see Popstar to laugh, they you will get what you paid for. Don’t expect any relevant insight into celebrity or the music industry. Nothing is truly mocked beyond “Hey, aren’t holograms silly” or “Rich people can be silly with their money, right?”. The Lorne Michaels produced comedies as of late have this as a common theme. In the need to appeal to everyone, they lose any relevant voice that comedy should always have. They aren’t bad, they’re just light, fluffy, irrelevant comedy.