Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the kind of comedy I generally like. It’s smart while wearing the mask of stupidity (like Dumb & Dumber, this is the sort of film where some of the audience will walk out saying, “That was stupid,” while being completely ignorant of the irony that half of the jokes went completely over their head.) and heartfelt without sacrificing humor.
Andy Samberg plays the new it-guy in the world of popular music, Connor4Real, who is preparing to follow up his first mega-successful solo album with a sophomore effort designed solely to outsell the first. Left behind in the wake of his success are his former bandmates, Owen and Lawrence (Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, respectively, who also co-direct the film in addition to co-writing it with Samberg. But nobody cares about who writes stuff.), one of whom is riding Connor’s coattails while the other has left the world of music behind, entirely, while wondering what happened to his friend and their friendship.
Told in mockumentary style, much like the title implies, the film simply never stops. It’s an all-out deluge of quick jokes, one-liners, puns, comedic body language/facial expressions, and satire that forces the viewer to pay attention and keep up, lest they miss something. The only downside to this is that it can frankly be exhausting, at times, as there’s not even a chance to reflect on how great one joke or line is before the film has already delivered one or two more. But I suppose that’s a good problem to have. For the most part, the humor works. It’s not “stupid” humor. It’s smart humor coming from oft-stupid characters. It’s satire. And it’s good satire.
And while the current state of the music industry is being lampooned, that doesn’t prevent an onslaught of modern household name talent in the industry from appearing to join in the fun. I won’t spoil any of these but they’re all from people who 1) are genuinely talented, 2) are mind-blowingly successful, and 3) in no way take themselves or their press overly seriously. Everybody who pops up is a great sport (some even making fun of themselves) and it’s nice to see that they get it.
And while the film largely pokes fun directly at Justin Bieber, to my knowledge, it’s not any form of his “story”. It’s the story of someone who needs to learn about priorities (well, maybe it is, then?) and that story is told through showing what can happen when one gets swept up in celebrity and riches. And while that message is very clear, it’s also not obnoxiously blatant. The film allows itself to be a comedy above all else, and that’s the right choice. How could it not be with such a strong cast pulled from Saturday Night Live (plus Joan Cusack like you’ve never seen her!), such as Samberg, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, and others?
Popstar is a film that’s confident in its own identity. It relies on quick wit, sharp dialogue, brilliant performances, and a game audience. It ever compromises by forcing in slapstick, gross-out, or shock value-based humor. Anything that could be construed as any of those is firmly rooted in situation and character and is not aiming to be funny just because it’s crude or wacky. There’s always more to it than that. These characters are meant to be laughed at, not laughed with, and laugh at them I did. And all I really ask for out of a comedy is that I laugh. So, if you’re mature enough (not just old enough. I mean actually mature enough, which is not guaranteed by age.) to get and appreciate adult humor – especially adult humor that skewers teenage mentality – see it now, while you can.