Within the various generations of Saturday Night Live, there was a comedy trio known as The Lonely Island. Their schtick centered around what was called an “SNL Digital Short” which featured many original songs including “Dick in a Box”, which featured Andy Samberg, the star of the trio, and Justin Timberlake sporting outfits and haircuts from the mid 80’s as well as boxes over their…you get the picture. After blowing up the internet and re-invigorating SNL for millions of people, they went on to make three albums: “Incredibad”, which was the 8th best selling rap album the year it was released, and “Turtleneck & Chain” and “The Wack Album”, which received similar popularity. In between all that came Hot Rod, a cult film that only added to their genius. With their latest film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, we have the next logical step in their career.
The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer) have got back together to create their version of This Is Spinal Tap. You could call it this generation’s Walk Hard. You could probably call it many things, but bad isn’t one of them. This movie succeeds where other comedies don’t. It manages to understand that jokes are funnier when they’re connected to something you care about. Popstar isn’t just about a few people, it’s about an entire culture and The Lonely Island are able to almost capture it all in 86 minutes.
Samberg stars as Conner4Real, the Justin Bieber-esque musician that proclaims that ever since he was born, he was dope. The movie has no qualms with superimposing a baby’s face onto a little person in order to show his character’s genius at infancy. We’re introduced into his entourage that includes his “best friend” and ex-bandmate from “Style Boyz,” Owen (Taccone). Owen has been emasculated by the everlasting fame of Conner4Real. Between being relegated to standing behind a podium while the beats are played on an iPod instead of actually performed, to wearing a Deadmau5-type head that emits an incredibly bright light and the sound that the tripods make from 2005’s War of the Worlds, Conner’s humiliation to those around him knows no bounds, including to himself.
Popstar gets a lot of things right. While The Lonely Island are vaguely familiar about what makes the music industry humorous, they’re able to break into the feature length format to give the subject the amount of time it truly deserves. From the artificiality of EDM and the vapid recklessness of modern rap, the trio possesses an insight and enough respect from the people actually in the industry to portray an outlandish version of reality without crossing over into outright stupidity. That isn’t to say that there aren’t “stupid” jokes. An on-going joke of a bird shitting on someone may go on for a little long, but they’ve earned a little stupidity along the way. At the very least, it makes up for it with intelligent writing and songs.
That intelligence doesn’t just stem from the writing. The amount of insight into the music industry is insane. With the amount of cameos in the film (mostly music related), you understand the credibility that these three carry within the entertainment industry and that they’re able to essentially have celebrities that never seem particularly self-aware actually seem self-aware. The movie doesn’t just stop at satirizing the music industry either. The trio digs their nails into paparazzi and general fandom among people as well, each working to a certain extent, but never taking focus away from the main subject.
Popstar and its advertising displayed a stupid film on par with one of my guilty pleasures, Hot Rod. The reality is that it is the smarter, funnier movie. It would be unfair to say Popstar is a 10 minute sketch stretched out to feature-length. By adding depth to these archetypes, you are able to notice the detail that goes into the thought process of their actions. Their dumb actions make a large amount of sense…if you’re that character making those decisions.
Popstar is the smartest dumb movie since Dumb and Dumber. It’s the funniest movie since 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows, which just so happens to be a mockumentary, but that’s not why it’s great. You could label this film many things and you’d probably be right with a lot of them. This film is fun, ridiculous, crass, smart, dumb; we could go on. But it’s most undeniably The Lonely Island.
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