Once upon a time, a blog briefly made an appearance on the ol’ Information Superhighway© that tried its best to focus on all things music, or to be more exact, the music I specifically enjoyed. That’s right, my first foray into the world of online writing came in the form of MusicBlogFunPartyTime, a WordPress site I attempted to keep afloat through occasional articles about random songs, albums and even films with a music-based premise such as Once, Almost Famous, That Thing You Do! & the mighty This Is Spinal Tap.
At the time, I considered the failed-band-centric Spinal Tap the funniest movie I had ever seen, a distinction it still holds to this day. Done in the “mockumentary” style of filmmaking seen only rarely before in efforts like All You Need Is Cash but which Spinal Tap star Christopher Guest would later use to great effect in later works including Waiting For Guffman, Best In Show & A Mighty Wind, This Is Spinal Tap truly brought the genre to the mainstream and served as a blueprint for countless films that would follow.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is yet another addition to the list, but unlike the lackluster output we’ve seen lately in films such as 2009’s Bruno, Popstar is a well-made jokefest that relies on the entire cast’s natural abilities along with a well-written script and a catchy, hysterical soundtrack. The brainchild of comedy troupe The Lonely Island, who last spearheaded the underrated 2007 comedy Hot Rod, Popstar follows music icon Conner Friel (Andy Samberg, Saturday Night Live veteran and one-third of The Lonely Island, doing his best Justin Bieber), known professionally as Conner4Real, as he attempts to keep his wildly successful career and excessive lifestyle going in the wake of a recently released disastrous album. Simultaneously, his DJ, Owen (Jorma Taccone, another third of The Lonely Island), must also wrestle with his underused talents while trying to orchestrate a reunion between Conner and estranged friend Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer, the final third of The Lonely Island), all of whom being prior members of legendary boy band The Style Boyz.
The Lonely Island cut their teeth creating a series of now-classic digital shorts for Saturday Night Live, and their chemistry again shines in Popstar thanks to the group’s history and effortless writing that makes the 86 minute runtime fly by far quicker than one might like. Rounding out the cast are the stalwart Tim Meadows as Conner’s manager Harry, a less-irritating Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist Paula, and a seemingly-endless supply of real-life musician in cameo mode including Seal, various members of The Roots and Arcade Fire, Adam Levine, Carrie Underwood, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Usher, 50 Cent, Pink, Pharrell Williams and Nas. They even got Ringo Starr, and see if you’ll be able to spot “Weird Al” Yankovic. He’s there, believe me.
But the roster doesn’t end there, with Emma Stone & Martin Sheen making quick appearances and character actress extraordinaire Joan Cusack as Conner’s mom. Chelsea Peretti, Mike Birbiglia & Will Arnett (who also appeared in Hot Rod) pop up from time to time as spot-on parodies of TMZ paparazzi, Bill Hader (again, also from Hot Rod and SNL) has some all-too-brief funny moments as Conner’s roadie, additional SNL alums Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, the great Kevin Nealon & Jimmy “Of Course He’s In This” Fallon all provide their own humorous tangents and, naturally, the movie wouldn’t feel complete without SNL Digital Short veterans Michael Bolton & Justin Timberlake, the latter of whom obviously exists in Conner as part of his on-screen persona.
There’s not much more to say about Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, and the likelihood is that you’ll be able to easily predict the various plot turns as the movie goes by. That being said, every actor fully commits to their role with unabashed zest, bringing an already-funny screenplay to new life. It’s a well-made film, one that stands out from the recent crop of disappointing comedies and, while it may not reach the lofty level of This Is Spinal Tap, it strives to get there, and at times nails it, much like Conner’s fictional quest to stay in the spotlight. Truly, I never wanted Popstar to stop.