Step aside Backstreet Boys. In the world of “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” The Style Boyz, tacky sweaters and all, are the boy band to beat.
Of course, a lot of suspension of disbelief is required for a movie such as “Popstar,” where the leads are played by comedy trio The Lonely Island, which means the band is more ludicrous and idiotic than smooth and slick. Their efforts in “Popstar” make it an endearing comedy that properly cashes in on The Lonely Island’s popularity. Shot as a mockumentary in which the filmmakers chronicle the lives of The Style Boyz, “Popstar” succeeds thanks to an abundance of funny performances and laugh-out-loud silliness.
“Popstar” picks up after a falling out between The Style Boyz’s lead singer Conner (Andy Samberg) and lyricist Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Conner refashions himself as rapper Conner4Real and continues to collaborate with the group’s DJ, Owen (Jorma Taccone). He tops the charts at the outset of his solo career, but after his follow-up album flops spectacularly, Conner begins to confront his failings as an artist and as a friend to his bandmates. As his popularity flatlines, Conner is faced with a monumental decision: Either reunite The Style Boyz or fall from grace.
Samberg’s performance as Conner seems prophetic of Justin Bieber’s personality in five years, lampooning the narcissistic tendencies of artists consumed by admiration for their own talent. Beneath the glam, though, lie vulnerabilities exposed by Taccone’s heartfelt Owen. Meanwhile, Schaffer broods with over-the-top seriousness as Lawrence, who has become a farmer in self-imposed exile.
The Lonely Island makes good on the promise of their previous discography by delivering a slew of memorable songs throughout “Popstar.” There’s an ode to marriage equality which devolves into Conner aggressively insisting he’s straight. In another, Conner sings about a girl who wanted him to “fuck [her] like the U.S. government fucked [Osama] bin Laden.”
Countless other stars appear alongside The Lonely Island, including Pink, Seal, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, Snoop Dogg and many, many more. Some of these celebrities play supporting characters, others appear in tiny cameos. Justin Timberlake’s turn as Conner’s overeager personal chef who loves singing pays off handsomely during the film’s last musical number.
“Popstar” plays with the documentary format, combining interviews featuring characters and celebrities with segments of news footage to tell its story. The documentary crew’s serious tone highlights the absurdity of the movie’s events. Sometimes, the cameramen get involved in the action, such as when Conner chases after one of them with a katana, and when his proposal to his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) is botched by a pack of fearsome wolves.
Unfortunately, the film is on the sloppy side, often darting from moment to moment to pump out its many jokes. The plot is messily constructed, and its decision to stick to the documentary format costs it some moments for character development early on. But these issues aren’t distracting, and “Popstar” makes up for them with its high-energy momentum.
“Popstar” also coasts by on its strong bromantic center. Conner needs to learn that real friends tell the truth, not reinforce his questionable decisions. The picture isn’t necessarily poignant — after all, there are tons of penis and weed jokes to break up the nicer moments — but it is sweet.
- Rating: R
- Score: 4/5 stars