It’s no shame to laugh your ass off at the crazyass music business. In 1984, This Is Spinal Tap took the art of the send-up all the way to 11. Now the mockumentary takes millennial form in the insanely funny Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, starring Andy Samberg as Conner4Real, a rap star whose career is tanking. Conner has an idiotboy’s understanding of rap. His music video in support of the LGBT community, “Equal Rights,” keeps repeating “I’m not gay!” in a panic between verses. His latest CD, Connquest, doesn’t even earn a star rating in Rolling Stone — just an emoji depicting a steaming pile of shit. #soharsh.
Popstar itself is too good-natured to draw blood. It’s freestyle fun all the way. The cast, including many celeb cameos (is that you, JT?), is what Conner would call “dope.” There’s Sarah Silverman, priceless as Conner’s publicist; Tim Meadows as his harried manager; Joan Cusack as his mother; Imogen Poots as his cheating girlfriend, and a killer Chris Redd as rap prankster who damn near renders Conner dickless. No spoilers, except to say that Harvey Levin’s TMZ gets royally skewered by Will Arnett and that concert films from Katy Perry, One Direction and most especially Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never are the source of many teasing taunts.
Above all, Popstar is nonstop party time for fans of the Lonely Island. Made up of Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, this comedy collective raised the bar on Saturday Night Live with their digital shorts, such as “Dick in a Box,” “Jizz in My Pants” and “Lazy Sunday.” Their comedy CDs (Incredibad, Turleneck & Chain, The Wack Album) are equally ground-breaking. The Lonely Island wrote Popstar together, with Schaffer and Taccone directing. About a decade ago, the guys created the immortal Hot Road, a daredevil farce unappreciated by critics, including me. I’ve been converted.
And, now, in Popstar, everything comes together. In life, Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone went to junior high near Berkeley, shared an apartment in Los Angeles, and created videos that brought early success. As one of the featured players on SNL, Samberg had supernova visibility that his pals did not. Did that cause friction? Schaffer plays Lawrence, a lyricist so tired of Conner taking credit for his work that he retires to a farm. Taccone plays Owen, Conner’s personal DJ, who feels demeaned when the star makes him wear a robot head on stage. “I look like the tip of Optimus Prime’s dick,” he complains. Conner, Lawrence and Owen first hit it big doing the “Donkey Roll” as the Style Boyz. Now they’re all in service to the Conner4Real solo brand. Is art imitating life? Probably not. OK, maybe a little. But as we watch relationships break and heal, Popstar mixes the hilarity with a surprising amount of heart. 4Real.