Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is essentially an 80 minute long SNL skit, but it never feels overly-long or tedious. The longer the film goes, the funnier the film gets. It also helps that the folks behind the picture are SNL alums The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer). This trio was responsible for bringing Saturday Night Live into the 21st century with their SNL Digital Shorts, a format that helped keep the groundbreaking sketch comedy series relevant. “Dick in a Box”, “Lazy Sunday”, “I Just Had Sex”, these are just a handful of the genius sketches that these guys came up with. So it was refreshing to hear that comedy super-producer Judd Apatow would help the trio with their new film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a satire on the modern-day music business. Its a shame that the film has been underperforming the way it has, because its the funniest film of 2016.
Samberg plays Conner4Real, a popstar who was apart of a boy band called The Style Boyz with his childhood friends (Taccone and Schaffer). As the band broke up, Taccone’s character hung around and continued to perform with Conner, while Schaffer’s character decided to go live on a farm, bitter from their ugly break-up. Conner however continues to sell out arenas as the hottest act in show business, until he releases a highly anticipated second solo album that’s DOA. The film showcases what Conner must overcome in order to stay on top.
The film, directed by Taccone and Schaffer with a screenplay by Samberg and the two, is presented in a mockumentary style (a la This is Spinal Tap but for pop music). This format could come off as gimmicky from other creatives, but The Lonely Island helped master this format on SNL, and watching an 80 minute version of this really works. I never got distracted from the story, and some of the more meaningful moments in the film really worked with the format in tact. The film features “talking head” interviews with musicians like Mariah Carey, Usher, Questlove, Nas, and even DJ Khaled who talk about the importance of The Style Boyz to the musical world. And the film is littered with dozens and dozens of cameos by The Lonely Island’s celebrity buddies who either play themselves or play characters within this universe. They all come together in brilliantly satirizing popular culture and the entertainment business as a whole.
As mentioned before, the film plays at a breezy 87 minutes, which is perfect for a film like this one. As funny as the film was and is, if it was any longer the joke might’ve gotten a little stale. Its a bit surprising since Apatow, a producer/filmmaker who’s notorious for making overly-long comedies, was able to approve such a breezy cut. I applaud his restraint in the editing room with this film. Its just a shame that the film is underperforming the way that it is. Its an original and very, very funny movie. Movie-goers complain about how there’s a lack of original material in the cinemas, and yet they neglect to see great original films like this film and The Nice Guys. Is it because its a show business film, and the general movie-going public doesn’t really care about films that are about show business? Who knows.
This is what Samberg and company should’ve done. They should’ve had a “work-in-progress” cut and premiered the film a few months back at the film portion of SXSW. That is a a festival that has become a flagship for big Hollywood comedies for years. It was exhilarating being at the world premiere of Neighbors a few years back and at Sausage Party this year. The energy in those screenings were electric, and you could tell immediately that those films would be huge hits (Neighbors was, Sausage Party won’t be released until August). If a work-in-progress of Popstar played at the fest, Austin would’ve gone crazy for the film, and buzz would be surrounding the film for the coming months until it opened in theaters. Hopefully Hollywood will give The Lonely Island another chance in the near future and they can take my advice.
If its still in theaters, I can’t recommend seeing Popstar enough. You’re going to have a blast watching this outrageously funny picture. Not all of the jokes hit, but about 95% of them do, and that’s more than enough for you to buy a ticket and go see the film. Movies are getting more and more expensive nowadays, so I can understand how audiences are staying home instead of going to pay money to see crap week after week this summer (I saw that said “crap” last week in the form of X-Men Apocalypse). But I assure you that if you loved this trio when you watched their SNL Digital Shorts, you’re gonna dig Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
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