Popstar has to be one of the most relentlessly funny studio comedies in years. If the first five jokes in any given scene don’t work for you, not to worry — one of the next 15 is sure to double you over.
The film eschews traditional story structure, instead emulating a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary by way of a VH1 Behind the Music special. We follow Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), one-third of the mega successful boy band Style Boyz (the rest of The Lonely Island, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer), after he branches out and becomes a solo pop sensation. The documentary cameras are there to chronicle the release of Conner’s second album, dubbed “the most anticipated in the world.”
Over the course of the film, Conner fails to rise to the occasion, and the album and its subsequent tour are a total disaster. There’s not much plotting here (and there doesn’t need to be), but it becomes pretty clear that in order to reignite his proverbial flame, Conner will eventually go back to his roots and learn an important lesson.
There are so many SNL alums on-screen, you’d think Lorne Michaels was involved, but his name is nowhere to be found. The film is produced by The Lonely Island as well as Judd Apatow, who is also responsible for one of the most underrated comedies in recent memory, the fellow musical biopic parody, Walk Hard. Popstar may not be as memorable as John C. Reilly’s pitch-perfect send-up of the genre, but it’s not trying to be — it just wants to make you laugh, and boy does it succeed.
The film often plays like a compilation of SNL Digital Shorts, with the songs conjured up by The Lonely Island rivaling any of the classics they produced for the show. One of Conner’s infectious pop hook about a girl demanding that he “fuck her like we fucked bin Laden” is as hysterical as it is catchy, and “Ibitha,” his woefully misguided dedication to the people of Spain is so wrong, you’ll feel bad when you ultimately find yourself sing along hours later.
Besides the songs, there are a few hysterical repeated gags that themselves feel like mini-SNL sketches. For example, one of the funniest gags in the movie are repeated cutaways to a TMZ-style program called CMZ, in which Will Arnett, Chelsea Peretti, Eric Andre, Mike Birbiglia and other hilarious people get to act like the lunatics on that program. Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows and other genre staples like Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader get big laughs, too, throughout, in roles that vary in screen time.
Popstar is the rare parody that honestly may not even be as silly as its target in real life — so many of the gags in the movie stem from real life incidents that are arguably even more insane off-screen. For example, the film takes aim at Justin Bieber’s Anne Frank incident, as well as U2 and Apple’s infamous collaboration that put a U2 album on everybody’s iPhone without their permission.
It’s truly a movie that could only be made by the people who made it — without Samberg, Schaffer and Taccone’s prowess for pop parody, the movie would be have little to no impact. The reason it’s so consistently funny is because they nail every minor detail, whether it’s ripped-from-the-headlines real or completely embellished, and commit to the material. The insane level of production on the parody songs are equal to the production of any real pop song, and that makes them damn near irresistible.
Popstar uses plenty of industry cameos for laughs, but unlike the vapid Zoolander 2, it doesn’t rely entirely on them. The format of Popstar is perfect fodder for talking head style interviews, and while most of these gags bank on recognition alone for a laugh, watching legends like Nas, Usher, and yes, even Ringo Starr, praise the idiotic songs of Conner4Real, is a real treat.
Popstar isn’t going to convert any non-believers into Andy Samberg fans, but for those who are already on board, prepare to laugh. A lot.