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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping' hits all the right notes

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Lonely Island-helmed mockumentary mines the music world for comedy gold

Few stylistic conventions provide more fertile ground for comedy than the mockumentary. It has proven a delightful playground for folks like Christopher Guest and his merry band of weirdos for many years.

Music mockumentaries in particular have been comedic gems. Whether you're talking about Guest's folk music riff 'A Mighty Wind' or 1993's dueling rap-umentaries 'CB4' and 'Fear of a Black Hat' or the granddaddy of them all, the classic 'This is Spinal Tap,' musicians and the music industry have long been rich targets for satiric exploitation.

The latest entry into the music mockumentary realm comes from the guys of The Lonely Island. Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone bring their long-established dual loves of pop music and absurdity together in feature film form for the very first time with the delightfully-named 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.'

Delightfully-namedand really funny.

'Popstar' tells the story of music megastar Connor4Real (Samberg). After breaking into the business with his friends Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaeffer) as the boy band-esque trio The Styleboyz, there was a schism that led to Lawrence leaving to become a farmer in Colorado. Connor went solo, bringing Owen along as his DJ/producer; his debut effort was a massive success.

A documentary crew is assigned to follow him in the lead up to the release of his eagerly-anticipated second album. Unfortunately, Connor's ego has been allowed to run rampant. That ego has resulted in a product that gets a less-than-stellar reception. He winds up making a number of desperate moves at the behest of his manager Harry (Tim Meadows, 'Trainwreck'), his publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman, 'Gravy') and his yes-man entourage he takes on a corporate sponsor to underwrite the tour; he invites a hot young rapper named Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd, TV's 'Empire') to open for him; he tries any number of tricks and gimmicks to invigorate interest in his music.

It all goes about as well as you'd expect, with the proceedings following a sort of 'Behind the Music' peaks-and-valleys arc. Whether he's proposing to his girlfriend (Imogen Poots, 'Green Room') amidst a pack of wolves or taking a dump in the Anne Frank House, Connor just can't seem to get out of his own way.

Perhaps the only way for him to have any kind of futureis to come to terms with the past.

Interspersed throughout are countless famous faces from the worlds of music and comedy. The musicians mostly play themselves as talking heads in the 'documentary' - folks like NAS and Questlove and Usher are great although Mariah Carey and especially Seal have some fantastic bits woven into the narrative. Adam Levine and Pink both perform with Connor it's as great as you think it is.

(Justin Timberlake is also here, but not in the way you might expect.)

Comedy folks like Bill Hader (as a guitar tech) and Maya Rudolph (as a corporate executive) have varying degrees of involvement (though the highlight is probably Will Arnett as a Harvey Levin-esque imbecile leading a parody of those atrocious bullpen bits that TMZ does on its TV show). Of particular note is a bit where Connor gets taken down by a surprising celebrity no spoilers, but it's awesome.

'Popstar' is a fantastic piece of zeitgeist-capturing comedy. The over-the-top world of entitlement and ego is wildly outsized, but it very much embodies the current state of the pop music landscape. Samberg, Schaeffer and Taccone penned the script and the latter two shared directorial duties; this ensures that the anarchic spirit of The Lonely Island is front and center much to everyone's benefit.

The joke density here is pretty high, with bit following bit at a breakneck pace. That title is no lie this movie never stops never stopping. Few of pop culture's sacred cows are left unslain. Yes, they are taking aim at some pretty easy targets, but still they hit on a whole lot more than they miss. And the music, well the music is just exceptional, combining humor and genuine craft in a way that perfectly matches The Lonely Island's well-established wheelhouse.

Samberg is outstanding here, embracing the lunacy of this skewed world wholeheartedly. Sure, his inherent weirdness might prevent him from ever having the A-list career that some of his fellow SNL alums have gone on to enjoy, but that's OK. Shoehorning him into a traditional vehicle is a waste of his unique skill set; he's at his best when he's out there playing with his friends. Schaeffer and Taccone might not be breakout guys, but they've got considerable comedic talents of their own.

And honestly, everyone in the supporting cast crushes it. Hader's great, and Arnett. Meadows and Silverman do great work. The assorted musicians all step it up to varying degrees. There are some weird cameos from the likes of Emma Stone and Will Forte. It's one of those movies where seemingly everyone involved is delighted to be taking part, and that joy definitely shines through on-screen.

'Popstar' is hilarious and weird, with great jokes and songs that are both incredibly funny and remarkably catchy. It's a loving take down of all things pop music and the closest thing to a 21st century 'This is Spinal Tap' that we're likely to see for quite some time.

[5 out of 5]


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