Wednesday, May 12, 2021

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Film Review

From the lonely island to the big screen



School is out, and the sun is shining, which means that summer is here once again. In theaters, summer is traditionally the time when most everyone turns their brains off, and studios churn out a succession of crowd-pleasing,Popstar big-budget action blockbusters and worry-free (read: dumb) comedies. “Popstar: Never Stop Neverstopping” is not an action film.

Written by Lonely Island comedy trio Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, the film provides laughs at exactly the brow level you should probably expect from the team that popularized the phrase “Like a Boss” and gave the world songs like “I Just Had Sex.” However, just as the rampant popularity of the Lonely Island songs illustrate, if you can turn your critical brain off and enjoy it, there are few people on the planet doing this kind of comedy with better results.

“Popstar” is filmed as a faux-documentary, following Conner4Real (Samberg), a Justin Timberlake-esque pop singer who has left his hip-hop group, The Style Boyz, behind for a solo career. His solo debut sold 6 million copies, which has afflicted Conner with legendary amounts of hubris, and he eschews everything that has made him successful in lieu of complete creative control over his follow-up album, “Connquest.”

From the get-go, everything about the album falls flat. The album art draws heavily upon Soviet-era propaganda, and the album’s singles are tone-deaf, vulgar monstrosities like “Mona Lisa” (sample lyric: “Mona Lisa, you’re an overrated piece of shit.”), and “Finest Girl (The Bin Laden Song).”

Prep Iowa

As album sales crater and tour dates go unfilled, Conner’s manager (Tim Meadows) brings in hot new rapper, Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), as an opening act in an effort to bring in more fans. As the tour progresses, Hunter’s popularity begins to overtake Conner’s, while also straining Conner’s relationship with his former Style Boyz bandmates. He struggles to reconcile his album’s poor sales with his own increasingly coddled lifestyle.

The film is a beautiful, nearly pitch-perfect sendup of the modern popstar lifestyle, showing the viewers clips from “CMZ,” a naked TMZ parody, with Will Arnett filling the Harvey Levin role perfectly. We’re also shown glimpses of Conner’s self-indulgent home life, where his every whim and idea is lauded by a series of “yes” men. One brief scene of Conner shooting a basketball toward a hoop without looking, missing badly, and smiling smugly as his crew goes nuts anyway is bitingly reminiscent of the spate of basketball videos Justin Bieber has been fond of posting to Instagram of late.

Saturday Night Live alum Samberg brings plenty of his friends along for the ride, including Meadows, Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph, and the documentary style allows for more than a dozen cameos, as everyone from Simon Cowell to Questlove to RZA and Nas pop up and give interviews about The Style Boyz influence on modern rap.

“Popstar” never reaches to the heights of all-time great comedy, but it never tries. Instead, it delivers a brand of laugh that is viciously clever, hyper-timely and utterly enjoyable. The film may not have a ton of staying power, in large part because of how “in the now” the humor is. But while it lasts, “Popstar” is utterly hilarious and has the good sense to keep the pace moving quickly and ending before it wears out its welcome. It is certainly not a family film, but if you are looking a legitimately funny, utterly disposable way to spend an afternoon, you could do a lot worse with your 10 bucks. CV

“Popstar: Never Stop Neverstopping”

Rated R

86 minutes

Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer


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