Hot Take: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping would have been funnier 5 years ago when it was more relevant and might be funnier 5 years from now when it takes on a more timeless feel but right now, the shit just feels kind of played. Lots of swings, plenty of misses but a few comical parts hit home runs and even a couple of them weren’t in the trailer!
There’s two things that struck me regarding Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. While watching Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island (a trio completed Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) do their thing, it was hard to find the relevance in the mockumentary. Sure, it’s a spot on riff of Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never from 2011 but it’s 2016 and now it has the same stale aftertaste of a pack of crackers eaten after their best by date. Adding to the irrelevancy is a cast of cameos that feel better placed closer to the beginning of the decade or, in some cases *COUGH* SEAL! *COUGH* maybe the previous one. That’s not to say it wasn’t funny. It was often funny. It would have worked so much better if it had better timing and came at a time where it had more relevance. Justin Bieber has moved on to much more ridiculous behavior to make fun of… keep up!
The other had very little to do with the movie which was mostly forgettable about 20 minutes after the credits stopped rolling. Review after review felt compelled to glowingly compare Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping to This Is Spinal Tap. The 1984 spoof is the quintessential music mockumentary. It’s also the easiest, laziest comparison one could find for the Andy Samberg vehicle. Since This Is Spinal Tap, there have been a number of shots across the bow of musicians and their necessity to document their career. Heck, Popstar isn’t even the first to take on rap or be made by an SNL alum. Chris Rock did the music mockumentary thing in 1993 with CB4, a hardcore spoof on gangster rap. The group makes it big then breaks up and eventually gets back together to do a reunion tour. It’s actually a little like Popstar in plot in some ways although it’s more of a movie than mockumentary. Then there’s Fear of a Black Hat in 1994 which is another rap mockumentary. Guess what it’s about? A trio of friends who become rappers and break up when one of them becomes bigger than the others. Eventually, they all fail on their own and come back together. This one’s a lot like Popstar. Without giving too much away, if you’ve seen either CB4 or Fear of a Black Hat, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping won’t feel as groundbreaking as declaring it this generation’s This Is Spinal Tap should be.
In truth, these types of films happen every 10-15 years. Samberg’s work on SNL and with The Lonely Island lends itself to such a project. It’s something that will likely age better as it spaces itself from the current events of today. We all remember a time when TMZ wasn’t breaking big news stories like Ray Rice and Donald Sterling and pot shots like the one Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping take at the mostly celebrity trash talker were funnier then and probably funnier when there’s a bit of nostalgia behind the jokes. So, maybe I won’t be as harsh on this come 2021 when I won’t be able to discern the difference between 2011 and 2016.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Justin Timberlake
Timberlake’s cameo (not as himself but as Conner4Real’s — that’s the character Samberg plays by the way — personal chef) is hilarious. Conner4Real and his vapid crew are annoyed at the chef’s singing and are so self-involved they don’t even notice how talented he is. There’s a splendid pay-off to the joke later in the film, also, and Timberlake shines in his few moments.
- Even Though the Humor Is Occasionally Outdated, It’s Still Funny
Often, watching Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping felt like watching an uncovered gem on Netflix and asking yourself, “how did I miss this?”
- The Song Parodies
The Lonely Island’s sweet spot is in their music. Although all of the parodies in the movie aren’t winners, most of them are at the very least chuckle-worthy and some laugh out loud funny.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
Must be nice to be on the SNL payroll when a film such as Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. One imagines a lot in Hollywood or New York City containing cryogenically frozen Tim Meadows or Kevin Nealon in glass cases waiting to be thawed out for a quick minor role in a film by an SNL star whose actually moved forward with their career. These appearances used to be interesting but now they’re a little sad.
- Where’s the Freshness?
Sorry if I’m the only one that finds cameos by Simon Cowell, Nas, 50 Cent, Seal and others as a little past the sell by date. Admittedly, Ringo Starr delivers one of the funniest lines in the film but The Beatles are timeless so I’ll forgive that one.
- Maya Rudolph
I don’t get it.