Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir. Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)

Posted: June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

I wanted to like “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” a lot more than I eventually did. It seemed like a good concept to take the Lonely Island, a comedic band known for making humorous songs for SNL’s Digital Shorts, and have them make a popstar mockumentary giving the “This is Spinal Tap” treatment to the genre of modern music that gives us talentless hacks like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and others that the music industry insists to the public are talented artists regardless of what my ears and penchant for lyrics tell me otherwise.  With a title parodying Bieber’s own feature length commercial “Never Say Never Again”, I was hoping this would be a silly but still biting satire of a music business which has been forced by technology destroying the album format and reducing modern music to a weekly sequence of singles watered down for mass consumption in the hopes of quashing the insane easiness of pirating music.  Say what you will about how movies and TV may have gone downhill, no industry has been hurt more in the last decade or two than music in terms of quality. Honestly, to yourself if not to anyone else, when is the last time you heard a musician make a song that you legitimately, to yourself, though was good?  Was great? Maybe I’m just getting old, but I barely listen to anything new anymore because music has become absolute swill. “Popstar” has the potential to be a brutal, biting, and savage satire of what music has become.


Instead, “Popstar” is a sporadically funny but ultimately too silly and friendly with the music industry (look at all the useless cameos that add no comedy and are only in the film to boost the cameo count itself) to really take the industry to task. The film is about Conner4Real (Andy Samburg), a man too dumb to be mean spirited with how much of an egotistical asshole he is. Conner could have easily become a vehicle to attack everything wrong with the modern music industries stars, who are celebrities and social media stars more than musicians, but instead he is a self-contained vessel that says nothing really about the music industry in particular. Sure, scenes where his yes-men congratulate him on a basketball shot he didn’t actually make and ones where he takes a shit in the Anne Frank house are obvious shots at Bieber, and a gag about Conner’s album being forcibly uploaded onto peoples’ home appliances mimics the incident where U2’s new album was forcibly uploaded to every iPhone regardless of the owner’s wishes, but the jokes of this film contain less of these gags and more generic and pedestrian gags about an egotistical idiot finally losing popularity. The film, in the end, is mainly about not being a dick to your friends, which is the laziest and unnecessary message to make in a film that should have been a no-holds-barred attack on the vapid state of American music.


I’m not going to say the movie doesn’t have funny moments. The Lonely Island songs in the film including bragging about being humble, and expressing support of equal rights while still vociferously assuring people you yourself are not gay, are quite funny. Other songs, about how the Spanish pronounce words and how the Mona Lisa isn’t a good painting, fall flatter. The movie is so harmless and good natured that it’s impossible to be too mad at it, even when it’s making ridiculously dated jokes about Tony! Toni! Tone! and can’t decide is Conner’s old group Style Boyz is supposed to parody Color Me Badd, New Kids on the Block, the Beastie Boys, or the Funky Bunch.


There really isn’t much to say about this film. It throws a lot of jokes at the wall, and more of them fail than work, but the movie is so harmless that it’s more of a shoulder shrug than a crushing disappointment. Maybe if the songs were funnier (Michael Bolton is wasted on a song that is just a collection of random things, a song about the things in a guy’s jeep is not funny in the slightest) or the jokes more outrageous, it could have worked despite being a neutered take on what could have been a really savage mockumentary. Maybe if the cameos from real musicians had been added for, you know, humor, instead of just to be bland talking heads to talk about the fictitious musicians at the center of the film, this could have been something. Talented comedians like Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Bill Hader, and even Justin Timberlake are completely wasted in this film.


“Popstar” isn’t a bad movie, so much as it is a wasted opportunity and a weak parody. I smiled and chuckled enough in the film to not be too mad at it, but the movie’s lack of a reason for existing makes it instantly forgettable and unnecessary. C


PS:  The film’s directors, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, are the two other members of the Lonely Island aside from Samberg. Jorma is the best actor of the three and also worked on the much funnier and just as dumb film “MacGruber”. I kind of wish he was the frontman for this band than Samberg.


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