Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
The mockumentary lacks both decency and human warmth
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The first 45 minutes or so of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a mockumentary about a Justin Bieber–like pop star named Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), is a barrage of clever jokes. Conner is releasing his sophomore album on which he claims he “personally wrote every song”—along with 100 producers. The album flops, and gossip news “CMZ” reporters analyze Conner’s spiral while sipping out of increasingly large to-go mugs.
The jokes will hit home if you’re steeped in pop culture. For example, Conner releases a single titled “Equal Rights” in support of legalizing same-sex marriage—a parody of “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The song is supposed to burnish Conner’s image as a thoughtful artist, although Ringo Starr (one of many celebrity cameos) deadpans that gay marriage is already legal.
The movie amounts to no more than a stack of jokes stapled together. The humor is trademark Lonely Island—the trio of Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone, who came up with famous Saturday Night Live song sketches like “Lazy Sunday.” And like most Lonely Island songs, this Lonely Island–authored movie is raunchy.
The movie is rated R for almost every category possible—male frontal nudity, female nudity, drug use, language. The extreme coarseness is all in service of critiquing the pop industry, but the filmmakers never pass up an opportunity to go over the top.
Judd Apatow comedies like Knocked Up are raunchy, but they have a soul that Popstar is missing. Apatow characters are real humans, like the porn-watching loner in Knocked Up who learns how to be in a relationship with a real woman. None of the characters in Popstar are more than cardboard cutouts of pop culture clichés. Mockumentaries are the best place for cliché characters, but Popstar lacks both decency and human warmth.
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