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09 Jun 2016

What a Show! 'Popstar,' Funny From Start to Finish, Is Destined to Become a Cult Classic

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Andy Samberg in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Andy Samberg in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

It’s now been nine years since The Lonely Island—Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer—made its cinematic debut with the cult-fave Hot Rod.

The trio’s new film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, gives them a chance to play in their favorite sandbox: the music world. The result: what feels like the first fully realized Lonely Island movie. Given how damn funny the movie is, let’s hope there are many more to follow.

All three members of The Lonely Island contribute as writers and performers, while Taccone and Schaffer handle directing chores. The movie takes the mockumentary route, spoofing bio films from the likes of Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Katy Perry.

Samberg headlines as Conner 4 Real, a former member of boy-band/rap-group The Style Boyz, who has gone his own way with a solo career. Following that initial success, Connor’s latest solo album is tanking (Rolling Stone gave it a shit emoji), and he’s panicking. He goes on tour with an opening act that is better than him; he gets sponsored by appliances that play his music when you operate them; and overall, he is basically selling out.

The movie features what Lonely Island does best—silly parody songs. “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” has Conner reminiscing about a girl who wanted him to do her with the military efficiency showed by the U.S. Navy SEALs who shot Bin Laden in the head. “Equal Rights” is Conner’s sad attempt to ally himself with the LBGT community; he subliminally reinforces his heterosexuality throughout the song.

The film revels in the random and weird, including a sequence in which Conner has to sign somebody’s dick through a limo window (a dick that, according to many stories on the Internet, belongs to the film’s producer, Judd Apatow), and a wedding proposal gone bad when the wolves supplied by a “Party Wolves” website become agitated by Seal’s singing voice.

A running gag riffs on Danger Mouse and Daft Punk, with Conner’s DJ—former Style Boyz member Owen (Taccone, in his best screen role yet)—wearing a cumbersome helmet that shoots out blinding light and a roar. There’s also the final Style Boyz member, Lawrence (Schaffer), who left the group during a rancorous split and became a farmer (perhaps a poke at former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry). Some of the movie’s best moments involve him being interviewed in his shed among his drab woodwork.

Other players include the great Tim Meadows as Conner’s shifty manager; Bill Hader in a quick but welcome cameo; and Chris Redd as Conner’s wild-eyed opening act, Hunter, who may or may not have orchestrated a gag that makes it appear that Conner has no dick. Yes, there’s a lot of dick humor in this film. This film might be the all time king when it comes dick humor.

Oh, and there’s also a blessed appearance by the one and only Michael Bolton. The Lonely Island are so cool they’ve made Michael Bolton cool. MICHAEL BOLTON.

Samberg finally gets a worthy follow up to Hot Rod, and he is on-the-mark funny during the entire film. Taccone, who rocked it as Chaka in Land of the Lost, shows off his versatility as the film’s funny emotional core. The big surprise is Schaffer, coming out of the shadows of Lonely Island to show off some major comic timing and acting chops.

Sadly, Popstar looks like it’s bombing, big-time, at the box office, so there you have it. Some people make a comedy that’s funny from beginning to end—and they get their ass kicked by a bunch of sewer dwelling turtles.

Hey, if it’s turtles you are looking for, Popstar features a turtle prominently. Yes, it’s a barfing turtle with a serious bone disorder, but it’s a turtle all the same.

Big box office or not, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping will eventually be regarded as a beloved look at a music world gone completely nuts. Years from now, people who passed on this in the theaters will catch it on TV and give it some life.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is playing at theaters across the valley.

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