The Lonely Island comedy trio — Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, and Andy Samberg — have been writing and performing with each other given that 2000, but they did not attain national prominence until 2005, when their Saturday Evening Live digital brief “Lazy Sunday” went viral. “Lazy Sunday” crystallized the troupe’s winning musical formula: Ferocious, chest-thumping rap braggadocio in service of silly and self-deprecating lyrics, like eating cupcakes and seeing a matinee of The Chronicles of Narnia. On SNL, 3 albums, and a run of consistently hilarious music videos, The Lonely Island has turn out to be the hip-hop equivalent to Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ long-running heavy metal parody/homage, Tenacious D. And the lingering query for both is: How far can a single joke be stretched?
For Tenacious D, the answer was the humbling 2006 farce Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, which sputtered right after a brilliant standalone opening. The Lonely Island fares significantly greater with Popstar: Never Stop Never ever Stopping, perhaps since the concept isn’t restricted to rap parody, but acts as a net that trawls the entire pop universe, in all its pomposity and excess and chronic eccentricity. Taking a mock-documentary type that draws from This is Spinal Tap, VH-1’s Behind the Music, and promotional movies like Justin Bieber: In no way Say Never ever and Katy Perry: Part of Me, Popstar isn’t a satire so a lot as a warped funhouse reflection of the modern scene. It is vibrant, affectionate, and so keyed into our specific pop moment that it all but hurls itself into a time capsule.
It really is also complete of jokes, lots of them, pouring out from the dialogue, the soundtrack, and an onslaught of graphics, references, foreground/background jokes, and random jokes tucked into the crevasses. Schaffer, Taccone, and Samberg had tried to make a function-length comedy before in the underrated Hot Rod, which tanked, but this is their very first accurate Lonely Island film and they’re not leaving any possible laughs off the table. The manic pacing provides Popstar the jagged rhythm of a hit-or-miss spoof in the Airplane! tradition, but there is enough hits to sustain every single scene and a easy arc about friendship and collaboration to carry the finale across.
As Popstar opens, Conner4Real (Samberg) is an ascendent phenom, getting used the early achievement of The Style Boyz, the band he started with childhood buddies Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer), to catapult, Justin Timberlake-like, to solo glory. Now surrounded entirely by sycophants, including 23 private assistants, Conner is readying the launch of his new album, Connquest, for which he wrote all the songs and slickened with the solutions of one hundred producers. With singles like “Equal Rights,” a marriage equality anthem laced with gay panic, and “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song),” a sex track littered with references to the Osama Bin Laden killing, Connquest is a vital flop and a commercial disaster. (Pitchfork provides it -four. out of ten whilst Rolling Stone opts for the poop emoji on its 4-star scale.)
Nonetheless, Conner tours in support of the record, breaking out new gimmicks to stave off his dwindling fortune. In that, Popstar acts as a scaled-up This is Spinal Tap, following a washed-up outfit via half-filled arenas as its most recent LP drifts into obscurity. The film has a sentimental side, as well, as Conner seeks to mend fences with Owen and Lawrence, who are decreased to DJ-ing with a iPod and functioning on a dust-choked farm, respectively. Samberg’s breakout good results as a Tv and film star probably informs this subplot, with The Style Boyz as a stand-in for The Lonely Island, but a comedy this untroubled does not hint at any true discord.
Conner’s image as a runaway egotist and conspicuous spender feeds into blockbuster scope of Popstar, which does not let for the more modest observational comedy of Spinal Tap or a Christopher Guest comedy like A Mighty Wind. The film is jammed with a who’s-who of celebrity cameos and bit parts, like Timberlake as a personal chef with a yen for carrot preparation, and massive setpieces, like Seal presiding more than a wedding proposal disrupted by a pack of wild wolves. Some of the jokes undercut pop grotesquerie, other people are merely silly for the sake of it. And as with any great Lonely Island song, all of them are delivered with infectious brio.