Given the abundance of music-themed mockumentaries produced to date, including the big-bottomed one that started it all (if not chronologically then at least collective consciously), This is Spinal Tap, I approached the mock documentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping with some trepidation (although I was drawn by the silliness of its title). What were Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone hoping to say and do that hadn’t been said and done in such faux fashion before?
Adding to my apprehension was the fact that Mssrs. Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone (collectively known as The Lonely Island) are the trio responsible for “SNL Digital Shorts,” a division of Saturday Night Live that has produced some 100 short film parodies over 11 consecutive seasons. Short they can clearly do. Could they possibly drag out a poke at a previously-tapped musical genre to fearsome feature length?
Maybe I was overthinking this. Maybe the boys just wanted to make a funny movie—they tried before with their feature-length Hot Rod from 2007 (a film which failed to find much of an audience despite the promise of its confrontational tagline: Smack Destiny in the Face). Well guess what? Popstar turns out to be—and nobody could be more surprised than I—a funny movie. Not a great movie, and by no means an original movie, but a funny movie nonetheless.
And sometimes it’s a very funny movie—who knew what would happen if you commissioned live wolves and a Seal to help celebrate your marriage proposal?
Speaking of seals, what’s most interesting about the film is just how many celebrities agreed to show up to Andy’s (and Akiva’s and Jorma’s) party. Was that an uncredited Emma Stone I spotted, briefly? Music producer par excellence Danger Mouse? Win Butler and Régine Chassagne from the Arcade Fire? And wasn’t that Questlove? Mariah Carey? Justin Timberlake? The number of musicians and producers and comedians and singers and actors who make an appearance in this film, beyond the principal cast, is staggering: Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Usher, 50 Cent, Adam Levine, Simon Cowell, RZA, Pharrell Williams, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg, Weird Al Yankovic, Michael Bolton, Pink, Martin Sheen, Katy Perry, Ringo Starr… The list goes on.
Popstar skewers the whole white rapper solo artist concert footage boy band break-up sophomore slump schtick with such fondness and sweet-natured abandon, highlighted by some excellent song spoofs, that it’s often hard to remember we’ve seen this several times before. Funny, it seems, bears repeating. But I should have figured that out from the title.
(c) 2017 David N. Butterworth