The Lonely Island team take the template of This Is Spinal Tap through your shameful 90s boy band phase and wink heavily towards “the Bieb” Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never to present a farcical ride through modern celebrity and pop music.
Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) is on top of the world. His debut album, titled “Thriller, also,” shook the music world. Struck by second album syndrome when his much-anticipated Connquest turns out to be a stinker, he spirals from his perch at Pop royalty to music industry exile.
Writer/directors Schaffer and Taccone take us through the highs of Conner’s success and the cult of personality surrounding the Conner4Real. The filmmakers tailor his fall from grace, for a contemporary short attention span and maximum funny. The fall, like those crafted by the media (Bieber, Brittany Spears), often side-step seriousness in order to fit the easy narrative. Writers Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone seem so ingrained in the tropes of the artists that it’s no surprise that they’re playing to the recognition and emphasising the fakery of the archetype.
POPSTAR is stacked with absurdity surrounding the pop star lifestyle. The more people that are clashing together in any given set piece the more you’re desperately scanning the frame. It’s loaded with jokes; in the bigger sequences of the film, it’s a joke assault. More characters at an event, means more opportunity for a lashing of verbal and visual jokes. Biggest is better and more ridiculous. Conner’s personal payroll almost rolls as deep as the cast. Sarah Silverman’s droll attitude is perfect for Conner’s agent, while Tim Meadows bumbling manager Harry is endearing and infuriating and then all the way back around again. Finally, Chris Redd’s Hunter (a Tyler the Creator clone) brings great energy to the Conner’s slow demise. Whip out your list of cameos, POPSTAR’s is bigger. Adam Levine, Martin Sheen, Nas, Pharrell Williams, Questlove, Ringo Starr, RZA, Seal, Simon Cowell, Usher begin with staring down the barrel of the camera to deliver straight faced ‘talking heads’ testimony of the influence of Conner or The Style Boyz (Conner’s original boy band nee The Beastie Boys ripoff), and everyone else’s participation devolves into fights or attacks by wolves.
The satirical song quality of the film is a little hit and miss though compared to the boys’ back-catalogue of amazing tracks and hits. It’s going to be interesting to revisit Popstar in a few years to see if the references hold up. As the boys tease Macklemore, Bieber and really any of the modern ‘popstars’ it almost feels like they’re taking aim at lazy easy targets. Like someone joking about politicians like Donald Trump or Pauline Hanson; their own tactless stupidity is already gasoline on a roaring blaze and it feels lazy. However, when there’s a hip-hop reference, a stab at an enduring boy band like The Backstreet Boys or relegating Justin Timberlake to chopping carrots, it has plenty of laughs.
This is not the greatest mockumentary in the world, no! This is just a tribute. But you’ve gotta believe me, it’s still really fair, but it’s just a matter of opinion.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Written by: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Andy Samberg
Starring: Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows