Like almost all of the best comedies Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping or, as it’s sure to be known, “The Lonely Island Movie,” has a kind of parable at its core. Calling it out as such might make this movie sound dull, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like an SNL Digital Short that never gets boring and never loses its edge, Popstar is a non-stop cascade of absolutely ridiculous, hilarious moments. With it’s clever writing, infectious (and infectiously silly) songs, and stinging commentary on modern celebrity, the group of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have crafted an absolute jewel with this movie.
Shot documentary style, Popstar follows Connor4Real (Samberg) as he prepares to release his sophomore album. Through flashbacks and interviews with other celebrities (there are some amazing cameos in this movie), they show how Connor and his best friends, Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer), formed a group called The Style Boyz and made it big, broke up, and went their separate ways. Connor, in a story reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Control, then hits it big as a solo artist after recording a guest verse in which he keeps saying catchphrases until one sticks–the “Catchphrase verse.”
The rest of the movie involves Connor4Real hitting all the highs and lows of the over-exposed modern celebrity, to great comedic effect. I won’t ruin any of the hilarious moments that pop up, but the writing and evolution of the character is almost painfully true to life. Connor is the quintessential modern pop star. He records everything he does, oversharing on every medium. He is surrounded by sycophants and superfluous assistants–he employs a unicorn trainer–and lives a life seemingly devoid of substance. Connor also rights ingenious (from out here anyway), obtuse pop songs like “Equal Rights” where he sings about equality while assuring everyone that he is definitely not gay, or “Finest Girl”about a girl who wants to be part of a hilariously wrong metaphor.
The catchall of everything that’s stupid about modern celebrity is really what makes this movie shine. Popstar, in a way that still makes you laugh, is a meditation (maybe a stretch, that word) on what fans seem to require from artists in this era. A CD release isn’t exciting enough? Pre-load your music into electronics so people are forced to listen. Your tour isn’t selling out? Plan elaborate on-stage antics to try and recapture some “vibe.” Single not getting enough airplay? Take the issue du jour (though these days it’s more of an issue du heure) and write a song trying to ride the wave.
All of these expectations of currency, relevance, and availability are lampooned in a way that made (at least me) reflective about the way in which we consume our culture. At the end of the day, that’s what the best comedies do. They make you laugh and then make you wonder why on earth people actually do the things they’re mocking. If this is the goal, hopefully Lonely Island will keep shootin’ Js at it for years to come.