The modern pop music industry is ripe for parody. With all the inflated egos, endless entourages and ridiculous content of lyrics, there’s so much to specifically knock. Weird Al can only do so much, after all. In fact, Weird Al himself is one of several cameos featured in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and his parodic influence clearly inspired The Lonely Island trio of stars/writers Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer (the latter two of whom direct) with their works on Saturday Night Live‘s Digital Shorts. Yet, much like their last collaborative feature effort Hot Rod, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping feels like a string of Digital Short ideas strung together by a shoestring story. Less of a story than even the iconic heavy metal satire mockumentary This is Spinal Tap or even the incredibly underrated musician biopic parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, even though Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping follows a very similar blueprint in terms of structure. Yet, the shoestring story doesn’t really hinder the laughs that much, nor the extremely pointed target of the pop industry and the type of documentary puff pieces that have spotlighted teen stars like The Jonas Brothers, One Direction or perhaps the biggest point of satire Justin Bieber.
The controversial self involved exploits of Bieber are a clear inspiration for lead Samberg’s take on the ego driven pop star, though this could have used a solid knock against the apology song for dumb antics like Bieber’s half assed attempt “I’m Sorry” from last year. Still, the songs are plentiful and on point in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, executing the type of satire that digs deep at the modern music industry without batting a single eye. There’s the gay marriage appreciation from a straight guy song that points directly at Macklemore’s “Same Love” and the near year datedness of the song’s message. There’s the making fun of women who are less appealing song that takes things to a ridiculous step by making the Mona Lisa herself a direct target. There’s even a parody of guest verses on popular song involving Emma Stone that skewers the concept of hashtag rap and its lack of connection with anything in the overall song proper. Samberg and his team are keenly aware of the pop scene, making every musical note hits their targets directly in the vocal chords. They also manage to satirize the concept of the music documentary with perfect form, particularly the smaller cliches like a serious scenes where the cameras turned off and only audio is heard that becomes more and more ludicrous as the scene takes advantage of the lack of visuals.
Much of the music industry humor works directly because of the people involved. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping isn’t begging for industry regulars new or old to do interviews, who take the snipes with stride and surprising comedic revel. Of the countless inclusions, rappers Nas and A$AP Rocky are probably the bigger highlights as they hype the former boyband our Lonely Island folks were in within the film were a part of and the idea of selling out in a modern world that are as verbose as they are hilariously bizarre. Of course, the comedic talent on display manages to deliver the goods. Aside from our Lonely Island trio, supporting turns from Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman and Justin Timberlake show a balanced sense of satiric glee in making fun of the excessive amounts of handlers these massive stars build around them. Honestly though, the newcomer and stand out is Chris Redd as Hungry Hunter, the intense egomaniacal rapper who is out to take Samberg’s dwindling spotlight as his opening act. Redd’s game attitude and aggressive nature perfectly bounces off Samberg’s calmer yet fragile self conscience.
Yet, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping still falls into the trappings of many a modern comedy based heavily in improve. Even for its 86 minute running time, the second act is still rather free of laughs as things slowly descend for Samberg’s music career. It plays on familiar tropes of the rise and fall of fame, but doesn’t really take advantage of the sudden surreal or inventively subversive humor Lonely Island loves to do as much as the first and third acts do. This is particularly telling in an extended sequence built around the reveal of a penis that goes on for an extremely long period of time, but without much engaging escalation. Thankfully, things turn around for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping as it heads into a parody of the sappy reunion of a former band that takes full advantage of the moronic nature of this industry and its nostalgia for the most bizarre elements of the industry. It may have worked better as a five minute online short, but even at over seventeen times that length, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping finds a solid consistency in chuckles and howling laughs to be worth the watch.
I also love writing the full name Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
… Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Popstars Who Never Stop And Are Never Stopping