After a two-year, sold-out, worldwide tour, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) is the biggest name in music. Go behind the scenes as Conner faces a crisis of popularity after his sophomore album flops, leaving fans, sycophants and rivals all wondering what to do when Conner4Real is no longer the dopest star of all. The hilarious comedy from digital short superstars, The Lonely Island, and blockbuster producer Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, Superbad, Knocked Up), is loaded with cameos from the biggest names in comedy and music.
If you've seen a viral video in the last ten years, then you're probably already very familiar with The Lonely Island. Through their series of hilarious SNL Digital Shorts and studio albums, the musical comedy trio has been responsible for several internet sensations, including 'Lazy Sunday,' 'Dick in a Box,' and 'Like a Boss.' And now, group members Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Toccone have turned their attentions back to the silver screen with their second feature length film, 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.' An amusingly goofy parody of contemporary music docs and 21st century celebrity culture, the movie offers a generous helping of farcical laughs and comically vapid bravado.
Structured as a mockumentary, the story focuses on the career of fictional pop sensation Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) as he releases his highly anticipated second album. But when the record unexpectedly flops, Conner hits the road for a concert tour. As he tries to salvage his dwindling career, the desperate star struggles to hold onto his fame and success, leading to a possible reunion with his former music group, The Style Boyz.
Essentially serving as a 21st century spin on Rob Reiner's classic 'This is Spinal Tap,' the film lampoons shallow music industry trends and empty celebrity spectacle in equal measure, while directly spoofing many recent popstar docs like 'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,' 'Katy Pery Part of Me,' and 'One Direction: This is Us.' Hell, the flick even includes actual crowd footage from that latter movie, helping to create a certain sense of authenticity. Likewise, the film hits all the right behind-the-scenes documentary beats, filling the runtime with talking head interviews from real life music stars and Conner's hilariously massive tour crew, along with concert performances and archive clips. With that said, realism isn't exactly a top priority here, and though Reiner's celebrted mockumentary opted for a decidedly deadpan approach, here the filmmakers often turn the movie's comedy knob all the way up to eleven.
Catchy, outlandishly satirical pop songs offer some healthy laughs, including a paradoxically boastful ode to humility titled "I'm So Humble" and a scathing takedown of Da Vinci's apparently not so hot "Mona Lisa." Comedy is also milked from Conner's many ridiculous, entitled antics and from occasionally sharp observations about media coverage (a TMZ parody is priceless) and product placement. More outrageous gags are peppered throughout as well, including a raunchy bit involving a mob of fans surrounding Conner's limo and a harrowing wolf attack.
And though the movie could have simply become a series of sketches and loosely connected jokes, the filmmakers do actually weave an effective, albeit simple overarching narrative, using Conner's career troubles to touch upon the fickle nature of fame and the importance of friendship. In fact, the third act reveals some genuine emotion beneath all the silly gags, playing up the deep bond between The Lonely Island trio, both on and off the screen. To this end, Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone share great chemistry -- though the gang doesn't get as much screen time together as some fans might be hoping for.
Instead, this is mostly Samberg's show, but thankfully the SNL vet plays up Conner's narcissistic cluelessness well, while still sneaking in signs of deeper emotion, fleshing out his popstar caricature into a legitimate character. More or less. Likewise, the supporting cast -- which includes Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman, and relative newcomer Chris Redd -- are all equally strong, with Redd and his intensely wide stare stealing almost every scene he's in. And of course, no Apatow produced comedy could be complete without a long list of entertaining cameos -- even if some here are merely in hologram form.
As funny as 'Popstar' can be, however, the flick isn't without some minor stumbles. The first act relies a bit too much on obvious jokes and familiar parody (Conner playing the drums as a baby fell particularly flat for me), resulting in plenty of smiles but few real laugh-out-loud moments. And while quite funny in their own right, none of the included songs reach the same level of comedic brilliance as the group's earlier hits. The story itself is also pretty thin and predictable, though the climax does offer a satisfying blend of humor and heart.
A funny and entertaining spoof on superficial stardom and shallow music industry clichés, 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' never stops delivering goofy jokes and clever observations throughout its brisk runtime. Though not every gag hits as hard as intended, the mockumentary style leads to a silly and heartfelt parody. And that's the 4real deal.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal presents 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' on a BD-50 Blu-ray disc that comes housed in a keepcase. A DVD and instructions for an iTunes/UltraViolet Digital Copy are included as well. After some skippable trailers, the disc transitions to a standard menu.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Though some footage is intentionally lower grade, the vast majority of the runtime features a very sharp and impressive image.
The digital source is clean and crisp with no signs of troublesome artifacts. With that said, due to the mockumentary nature of the film, there are a few archive clips here and there that are made to look like they've come from lower quality sources, and these scenes offer a deliberately soft appearance. Thankfully, most of the movie features very sharp clarity and a great sense of dimension, especially during the concert performances and music video scenes. Colorful lights bathe the stage, highlighting the shows' outrageous spectacle with individual pyrotechnic sparks visible on screen. Contrast is high with bright whites and deep blacks without blooming or crush, and primaries pop nicely with pleasing saturation.
Outside of some intentionally lower quality snippets, 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' looks fantastic on Blu-ray, offering a pleasing HD sheen marked by strong fine details and depth.
The film is presented with an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, along with optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles. As with the video transfer, the mockumentary nature of the flick does lead to some modest stretches, but the audio is absolutely killer during the musical performances.
Dialogue, narration, and vocals are clean and well prioritized throughout, offering ample emphasis for every one of Conner's ridiculous lyrics. Since a good portion of the runtime involves simple talking head interviews, archive clips, and fly-on-the-wall interactions, the soundstage is understandably modest during certain stretches with minimal directionality and ambiance. With that said, key scenes (like a bee ambush and wolf attack) feature lively design work, and the music videos and concert performances sound fantastic. The numerous songs offer thumping beats, wide dynamic range, crisp fidelity, and enveloping separation, spreading the comical tunes all around the room with deep bass and strong surround presence.
Judged purely as a concert flick, this disc would score a strong 4.5, but the (understandably) modest mockumentary segments do bring the track's overall scope down just a tad.
Universal has provided a great collection of supplements, including a commentary and lots of bonus footage. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' is an amusingly goofy concert mockumentary from The Lonely Island. Through Conner4Real's farcical career, the comedy trio effectively lampoon 21st century celebrity culture and music industry clichés -- even if some jokes don't always land. Though elements of the documentary style are understandably modest, the video transfer and audio mix are both very strong. Fans also get a sizeable collection of supplements, including lots of entertaining cut scenes. This is a great release for a very solid comedy flick. Recommended.