Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
As a music lover, I am picky about music satires. I wasn’t expecting much from this. I hated Adam Samberg’s Hot Rod. And music satires have been done so well before. This is Spinal Tap — parodying heavy metal. The same Christopher Guest crew gave us the decent A Mighty Wind — parodying folk bands.
Fear of a Black Hat — the underrated movie that parodied rap.
The Rutles — cleverly parodied The Beatles.
So who cares if Samberg and his “Lonely Island” trio (Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone) wanted to skewer the current crop of crap singers (think Justin Beiber)? Well, I’m sure glad he did. And it reminded me how much I enjoyed the songs they did on Saturday Night Live (D*** in a Box, I’m on a Boat, Lazy Sunday, etc.).
The Blues Brothers went from an SNL sketch to a full-blown movie, and these guys made the leap nicely. Sure, at times it feels like a bunch of sketches strung together (like the few Behind the Music parodies we’ve seen before). Yet it’s funnier than anything that’s been on SNL in years.
Samberg plays pop sensation “Conner4real.” He had early success with his group “Style Boyz” (think Beastie Boys meets NSYNC). He leaves them to go solo. One becomes a popular DJ, while the other grows a beard and becomes a farmer.
Conner has great success with his album “Thriller, Also,” but his second record flops. That means ticket sales are down. And yeah, if you’re familiar with the story arc in Spinal Tap, you’ll find many, many similarities.
Tap gave us the album “Intravenus de milo.” Conner gives us “Mona Lisa is an Overrated Piece of sh**,” “I’m so Humble” (Mariah Carey’s favorite song), “Equal Rights” (which points out many, many times…that Conner isn’t gay). There’s almost a ballad — Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song). It starts with acoustic guitar, but quickly goes hip-hop, with comparisons on how his girl would be f***ed like Bin Laden was from us. And as clever as the lyrics all are, I get the biggest kick out of the song that samples the doo-wop vocals from The Silhouettes “Get a Job.” Just the idea of doing that is brilliant.
Before the movie started, I leaned into my girlfriend and said, “How soon into this do you think we’ll see Simon Cowell commenting on the band?” Well, it was about two minutes in. There are many more cameos doing the talking head thing (the best being Ringo Starr, because it was unexpected to see a Beatle, and his questioning a song about gay marriage when “gay people can already get married!”).
My favorite cameo was Adam Levine (Maroon 5), simply because he was a hologram. Okay, Seal wasn’t so bad either. We find out how he got the scars, and what animals he should stay away from.
Will Arnett was a blast playing TMZ dope Harvey Levin. Joan Cusak was hysterical in her small role as the hard-partying mom to Conner. It was also great to see SNL alum — Bill Hader as the dim guitar tech, and Tim Meadows as the manager and former member of Tony! Toni! Tone! (in a joke that was a bit like the SNL bit that had Eddie Murphy as the former Beatles member that was kicked out).
One of the more disappointing cameos was Justin Timberlake (so funny with Samberg in “D*** in a Box”). He plays a celebrity chef in a few scenes.
The second half of the movie isn’t nearly as good as the first. There aren’t as many jokes that land, and the story becomes predictable.
In a smart move, they obviously didn’t rely on improvisational humor. That often sinks a lot of today’s comedies.
The production values were great, and some of the songs will stick in your head.
The movie gets 3 stars out of 5.