POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING
Directed by Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone
Starring Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Tim Meadows Sarah Silverman, Chris Red
out of ****
The Lonely Island, the parody pop/rap group developed by Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schafer was made famous by SNL Digital Shorts; have made their first official feature film. POPSTAR: NEVER STOP, NEVER STOPPING is a mostly successful, sometimes uproariously funny SPINAL TAP styled pop-music mocKumentary. Featuring the flow of a really good episode of Saturday Night Live, where the jokes come flying and land often enough to make you forget about the ones that fall flat. A cavalcade of celebrity cameos play it straight as they talk about Conner4Real (Samberg), a Justin Bieber by way of Justin Timberlake styled pop-superstar dolt. Conner is hopelessly devoid of self-awareness as you'd expect and most of the movie revolves around lampooning his general obliviousness, while mixing in some fantastic physical comedy; it's not exactly focused on any revolutionary criticism of the current pop-music scene and culture.
That is not to say POPSTAR doesn't have a few humorous takes on where our current music/media consuming culture is headed. I found one very well-timed gag, involving a send-up of the current culture of artists releasing their music (at least at the outset) through exclusive commercial properties. Kanye West earlier this year forged an exclusive agreement with pay-for music streaming service Tidal, meaning fans had to subscribe to Tidal in order to get the album (legally). A couple years ago Jay-Z released his album exclusively throughSamsung’s mobile music platform, available at first only to Samsung phone customers. In POPSTAR, Conner4Real’s foray into this market strategy is to sign an exclusive agreement with an appliance company (think GE, and then think of all the things in your home that could be made by GE), where various appliances will automatically stream his music without the consent of the consumer – this to no surprise irritates the globe; causing people to destroy their appliances, and even leading to the POTUS publicly condemning Conner. This gag also reminded me of the backlash surrounding U2’s 2014 decision to partner with Apple to push their album directly onto people's Apple devices for free; a decision resulting in thousands of millennials complaining that Apple/U2 are infringing on their privacy by giving them this free music without their consent – you know because my generation is used to picking and choosing the music we take for free.
I saw this movie a week ago and it has already faded from my memory, but I appreciated how breezy and light on its feet it is. Clocking in just under 90 minutes, contemporary comedies could take a cue from the value of not overstaying your welcome. Of course another way to hurt a good comedy is by viewing one in less than ideal circumstances. Over the last week I have read a few negative sentiments about the film’s comedic value coming from people who ‘saw it in an empty theater.’ When it comes to comedies – I cannot think of a more devaluing atmosphere to view one. A comedy in general should be a shared experience, everything is funnier when surrounded by the mutual peer-assurance that what you’re laughing at is hitting everyone the same way. I have no idea whether I’d enjoy POPSTAR absent a crowded theater, and I don’t really have plans to find out; some films are made to be viewed in certain environments. This all reminds me of a friend of mine who often would after watching comedies I enjoyed months after I praised them, inform me how little he laughed. I would naturally inquire:
“Wait you just saw it? How? Where? I don't believe it's in theaters anymore.”
“Oh I watched it by myself ... on my laptop ... in my bedroom ... in my parent’s house ... at 2am.”
Jesus. There wasn’t a nearby wake in-progress you could plug in your laptop at?
POPSTAR was playing in a few multiplexes across the land, but has no doubt left theaters during the time that you started and finished reading this piece.