Movie Review: ‘POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING’ sparkles with absurdity


James Cole Clay // Film Critic

Director: Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Andy SambergJorma TacconeAkiva Schaffer, Tim Meadows, and Imogen Poots

Picture an obnoxious pop star named Conner Friel, a.k.a. Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), on a stage filled with gimmicks, pyrotechnics and a hologram of Adam Levine grinding on another hologram of Adam Levine, all while singing the ridiculous song “I’m So Humble” with 15,000 fans cheering for god knows what reason.

Conner claims, “My fans and me, we’re in love. The arena is the bedroom and the stage is where we f**k!”

This is one of several clever performances in POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING, coming straight from the brains of comedy trio the Lonely Island (Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer) who have been making tunes together since their days at SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Along with producer extraordinaire Judd Apatow (TRAINWRECK), the trio find themselves right at home, blending their GIF-ible/meme-ible music with a frenetic humor that finds a heart in places you may not expect.

The Lonely Island keep it simple with a “Behind The Music” style mockumentary a la Justin Bieber’s  2011 tour film NEVER SAY NEVER that’s essentially propaganda for Conner4Real’s meteoric rise/fall/rise into pop superstardom after he ditched his childhood friends, the Style Boyz (Taccone and Schaffer) in favor of a solo career. Talking head interviews of celebs such as Nas, Mariah Carey, and even Ringo Starr fill in his backstory and quip something ridiculous about how influential Conner’s work has been to their lives. Inside those idiotic antics there’s a sad kid in there who’s praying to be accepted. From the hilarious to the pathetic, POPSTAR has more in common with its real life counterparts than the movie gives credit.

Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) musing about his fantastic life. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Conner4Real (Samberg) musing about his fantastic life. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Somewhere in between his first album, Thriller, Also, and his upcoming second record, ConnQuest, Conner became an egotistical douche surrounded by a bunch of yes-men that leave him in a state of arrested development. Consequently, his album flops, the spotlight wans, and there’s only one solution to get the squad back on track… go on tour!

And that’s basis for the film. It’s filled with cameos that are never awkward or thirsty for attention– POPSTAR is here to celebrate celebrities. Comedies are rarely packed with this much life and attention to detail. Conner’s hit single “Mona Lisa, you’re an overrated piece of s**t” is sharply written with jokes that are howlingly funny and offensive enough to keep up with the juvenile absurdity, all the while never apologizing for its lack of intelligence.

POPSTAR is a relentless film that truly lives up to its title by never stopping to push the boundaries within a blueprinted story of redemption. There are limitations put on by the PC police– and if there ever was a line in the proverbial sand, Sacha Baron Cohen (BORAT) crossed it 10 years ago. But POPSTAR finds its own voice that’s the venom/antidote for the Hollywood lifestyle. This is the most relevant film of the year that takes 2016 and condenses it into 86 minutes of pure joy.

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING is in theaters nationwide Friday.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.