Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping tells the could-almost-be-true story of Conner4Real, a modern pop icon who got his start in a pop-rap group called the Style Boyz. As best friends and band mates in the Style Boyz, Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer), Owen (Jorma Taccone), and Conner (Andy Samberg) were an unstoppable trio. But, as it always goes, success ruins the friend dynamic, the band breaks up, and Connor goes solo. Owen, armed with an array of equipment, but most importantly an iPod, stays on as Connor’s DJ and Lawrence finds a new home in Middle America as a farmer and amateur woodworker.
The mockumentary captures Connor’s professional and personal struggles, including the usual rise-fall-redemption story so often portrayed in real biopics. The clever part of this film is that the satire does not need an original story to work but rather an exhausted one. And it does work.
Samberg, playing a more oblivious version of his well-known charming goof persona, has never looked more comfortable and the rest of the main cast is similarly strong. The endless cameos are a stunt but also super enjoyable and considering the sheer number of them – it must be a record – they are impressively effective. All of Sambergs friends from across film and music have come ready to play. Nas (yes, that Nas) has some of the best lines in the whole thing.
What makes the film work beyond the well-written jokes is the seamless transition between different types of “footage” and set pieces. There’s old home videos, musical numbers, old musical numbers, interviews, photo-shoots, and everything else typically found in a standard music documentary. Mockumentaries walk a very fine line between believability and all-out farce, and for most of Popstar, the balance is struck.
Despite a diverse array of targets, including Justin Beiber, U2 and Tyler, a paper-thin plot, a parade of cameos, and some jokes that inevitably fall flat, Samberg and company somehow makes it work.
With the limited amount of quality satire offered to moviegoers these days, Popstar stands out could very well cement itself as a cult hit.