Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) Movie Review

The “Style Boyz” are a juvenile hip-hop crew comprised of Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), Owen (Jorma Taccone), and Conner (Andy Samberg). After power trips get the best of them, Conner transforms his brand into Conner4Real, becoming a one-time star in the process, Lawrence gets fed up with the power feud and retires to a small farm and a scraggly beard, and Owen gets relegated to the literal background role as Conner’s DJ.


The opening credit song pretty much tells the whole story: Conner is “So Humble” in the sense that he has no idea what the word means. This threatens to ruin his career and all of his relationships, and the plot plays out accordingly from there.

Popstar plays as a mockumentary, but one can’t go in with the godfather of music mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, in mind, as the two films couldn’t be more different in comedic style. This isn’t to discredit either one, per se, but Popstar certainly finds itself hitting more roadblocks along the way.

What we get with this outing from the Lonely Island trio has the feel of a Lonely Island album put to film. While that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, the shtick only works to the extent in which you can handle watching Lonely Island music videos. Songs parody heavy hitters like Macklemore to good effect, but other “music videos” work solely off of non-sequitur, to expectedly less effect.

Most of the film outside of the fake music videos is reliant on celebrity talking head cameos and a narrative that doesn’t really move anywhere. The end result is a movie that feels like an amalgamation of sketches; some are uproarious, others sadly tepid. Either way, each one only plays on one level; there is no room for heightening or subtlety, not that they appear to be going for subtlety.

Take for example a song dedicated to the repetition of the comparison between having sex and the assassination of Osama bin Laden: it’s a belly laugh on impact, but fades over the course of the two minutes the song extends for.

While it successfully skewers the celebrity world better than Zoolander 2 from earlier in the year, Popstar lacks cohesion and bit depth to be memorable in the long term. The film may have fared better with less minor skits and more fully developed scenes, not to mention less names that are there just to have big names in the credits.

The Lonely Island has proven with their music that they know how to extrapolate humor from juvenile subject matter and heighten it to delightfully absurd levels. But they fail here to deliver a feature length comedy that succeeds beyond its extraneous parts. The film definitely doesn’t fall flat, but its comedy doesn’t shine beyond its glittery surface either.


The Post-Script

I enjoy a selection of The Lonely Island’s work, particularly their contributions to Saturday Night Live through their Digital Shorts. As such, I wanted this film to succeed, and, given the comedic names in the cast, I thought it had a good shot. But those names are under-utilized, supplanted in screentime by celebrities, the comedy of which only lasts until the novelty of their faces being on-screen wears off. Here’s hoping that their next outing fares better.

As always, thanks for reading!

Have you seen Popstar? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!


—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

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