Editor’s Notes: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is out on in its respective home video format September 13th.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal Home Entertainment) is a clever faux documentary about fictional NSYNC-inspired boy band Style Boyz, made up of childhood pals Conner (Andy Samberg), Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Composed of interviews with actual musical artists, “archival footage,” music videos, home movies, and red carpet moments, the film chronicles the early days of the boy band, Conner’s rise and fall, and his ultimate redemption.
Co-directed by Taccone and Schaffer, the movie is a fast-paced, constantly funny look at the glitz and heartbreak of show biz. A modern-day companion piece to This Is Spinal Tap, Popstar… skewers pop celebrities (Justin Bieber is a prime target) without ever crossing over into mean-spirited territory. The three principals look as if they’re having a ball, particularly in the music videos that parody the many excesses of pop culture artists. They have the moves and can carry a tune, but when you listen closely to the lyrics, you can hear how inane and vacuous they are. Songs such as “Equal Rights,” “Bin Laden,” and ”Maximus” (about Conner’s pet turtle) are performed with elaborate production values, wild lighting effects, and dazzling editing.
At the height of his popularity and full-blown ego trip, Conner has a hit with “I’m So Humble.” The inevitable rift that ensues shows the three longtime friends readjusting. Conner becomes a solo star and renames himself Conner4Real. Owen is relegated to sidekick and DJ, triggering the show’s musical cues from his iPod. Lawrence, deeply hurt by a slight from Conner, goes off to Colorado to live on a farm, hermit-like. His attempts at farming are less than productive, and he spends his days carving inept wood sculptures.
Samberg has always had an endearing little-boy quality. Though his Conner isn’t always the nicest of human beings, down deep he has a good heart. We see Conner go through a burst of narcissism and lose sense of who his real friends are, but when his opening act, rapper Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd) — in a nod to All About Eve — begins to overshadow him, the fickleness of the public hits home.
Samberg cut his teeth on the numerous digital shorts he made for Saturday Night Live. The same comically irreverent quality enlivens Popstar, and the movie happily never outstays its welcome. If you add up the laughs in this tightly edited 83-minute film, the total would far exceed those in many traditional Hollywood comedies.
Celebrity cameos include Usher, 50 Cent, Adam Levine, Snoop Dogg, Mariah Carey, Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, Ringo Starr, Jimmy Fallon, Pharrell Williams, Simon Cowell, and Mario Lopez. They comment on the success of Style Boyz, their music, and their effect on pop culture, making these talking-head moments great fun. Often, these appearances are very brief, their dialogue and delivery comic gems.
A few comic set pieces are especially hilarious. A wedding scene in which Seal sings as a pack of wolves provide atmosphere is especially looney. Cutaways to a TMZ-type show featuring Will Arnett poke fun at the infatuation with celebrity news, however mundane. Conner’s entourage features an eyebrow specialist, turtle wrangler, scarf caddy, a short guy to stand next to Conner to make him appear tall, and another guy to punch Conner below the belt periodically to remind him “where he came from.”
The supporting cast includes Sarah Silverman as the group’s publicist, Tim Meadows as their manager, whose first loyalty is to the almighty dollar, Joan Cusack as Conner’s party-driven mom, and Maya Rudolph as Deborah, who makes a deal to have Style Boyz tunes play whenever household appliances are opened.
With its backstage melodrama, on-stage hilarity, and spot-on spoofs of music industry types, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, cheerfully fixes its crosshairs on the excesses and tribulations of that milieu. Rated R, the film contains strong language, sexual content, drug use, and nudity.
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include deleted scenes; music videos; gag reel; interview outtakes; bonus footage; commentary with Andy Samberg and the other writers; “Turn Up the Beef” backstory; Big Boy Freestyle; and other featurettes. A digital HD copy is included.