Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.
The jokes per minute ratio in "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," Andy Samberg's satire of an overexposed megalomaniac star, is pretty high and more than a few of them land, although the picture pales in comparison to the gold standard of its type, Rob Reiner's classic "This is Spinal Tap."

While I wouldn't say there's an urgency for this type of parody, it certainly feels of a piece in the current climate in which we exist, from Justin Bieber's goofy antics to the fact that a vapid reality show star is a presidential candidate. However, Samberg and company only take one noticeable shot at Biebs during a scene in which Samber's Conner stinks up the bathroom at the Anne Frank House and makes a Jim Carrey reference, which I can only imagine is poking fun at Bieber's outrageously dunderheaded comment he wrote in the ledger at that historic Amsterdam house.

On "Saturday Night Live," Samberg was known primarily for his Lonely Island videos, such as "Dick in a Box," and "Popstar" often feels like a series of sketches - albeit ones focusing on a recurring cast of characters - strung together as a movie.

Some of these sketches and particular scenes are very funny. I was amused that the best gag in the film involved a reference to an early to mid 90s group - Tony! Toni! Tone! - that could be lost on many of the younger crowd for whom this film is obviously aimed and that the picture's best line delivery belonged to Nas as he comments on a failed video involving a jeep. The movie's best running gag is its portrayal of a TMZ-esque TV channel.

But for all of the scattered moments of hilarity, "Popstar" is ultimately a straightforward behind-the-music style of mockumentary as well as a rise-and-fall story that you'd expect to see in any musical biopic from the past 10 years.

Conner starts out in a Beastie Boys flavored boy band but eventually - much like Justin Timberlake - becomes the break-out star and moves forward with a solo career, relegating one of the former members of his band to operating an iPod at his live shows, while the other disappears into the wilds to become a farmer, which makes for one of the film's least effective ongoing gags.

The picture features a who's who of comedy - Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader and an especially effective Tim Meadows - and musical - Nas, 50 Cent, Arcade Fire, DJ Khaled, Usher, Michael Bolton, Seal, Questlove, Ringo Starr and many others portraying themselves - talent. While in other films, such an overstuffed cast might spoil the broth, it actually works to this film's advantage as some of these bit players get the best lines.

So, if "Popstar" never quite reaches the maximum level of cleverness that some of Lonely Island's best work did, it has its moments and a few genuine laugh-out-loud bits. And in case this wasn't clear, while the film only works just about half of the time, it's miles ahead of most of the "SNL" spin-off pictures of years past.


  1. Nice review.

    The trailers had me worried, but the film turned out to be pretty hilarious and well-executed.

    - Zach (

  2. Thanks Zach! I thought some of the jokes in Popstar were a little meh, but more than a few made me laugh pretty hard - especially the Tony! Toni! Tone! one and Nas's reaction to the jeep song. I checked out your website and enjoyed your reviews. Thanks for reading!