The viral success of Dick In A Box, Jizz In My Pants, I’m On A Boat, and I Just Had Sex meant that it was just a matter of time until Hollywood beckoned The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone) over. But the ascension and elongation of a three-minute short music video or sketch into a full-fledged feature film comedy is a tricky process that many other Saturday Night Live alumni have failed at.
Fortunately for fans of the pop-comedy trio The Lonely Island, they know their strengths, which they stick to and play upon in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, creating a consistently hilarious comedy that for its opening half is the funniest film of the year.
Popstar unfolds as a mockumentary focusing on Andy Samberg’s Connor4real, the breakout star from the pop group Style Boyz who is about to release his second album, Connquest. But after leaving Style Boyz, Conner’s ego has bloated, and the subsequent critical and financial failure of Connquest soon leads the singer to seek more drastic actions to try and win back public favor.
Those of you hoping to hear similar songs to The Lonely Island’s previous output will be relieved that I’m So Humble, Equal Rights, Mona Lisa, and Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song) each provoke howls of laughter akin to their predecessors. Samberg, Schaffer and Tacone don’t try to complicate matters, creating a proudly silly and fun comedy that is rife with genuine belly-laughs that come from both the songs and the dialogue. Ultimately, the film's lack of complexity is a slight deterrent though, because narratively, Popstar is on shaky ground, as it unfolds as a series of sketches rather than anything cohesive.
For its opening stint, that doesn’t really matter. Popstar is able to get enough mileage out of its pastiche of the recent spate of popumentaries that have come from Katy Perry (Part Of Me), One Direction (This Is Us), and Justin Bieber (Never Say Never, Justin Bieber’s Believe), while its impressive production value makes it a veritable orgy for the eyes. There’s also a steady stream of impressive cameos (the best of which are from Martin Sheen and Seal), while Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader, Imogen Poots, James Buckley, Will Arnett and, especially, Tim Meadows each excel in their eccentric, over-the-top but nevertheless amusing and generous supporting roles.
However, when you expect Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping to move up a notch as it progresses into its second act it struggles. Its predictable plot is lacklustre and the contrived grievances between the Style Boyz fail to truly captivate. Luckily, while the laughs slow, they still arrive on a consistent enough basis to win you over and keep Popstar enjoyable and delightfully entertaining.
Inevitably Popstar will be compared to This Is Spinal Tap. But while it ultimately fails to hit the heights of that seminal mockumentary, it’s still a clever, witty and lively addition to the genre that both Lonely Island die-hards and those of you that never even knew Michael Bolton is a major cinephile will revel in.