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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: A-

There is nary a lull in the rapid fire punchlines in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a rockumentary far and away better than any sane person would expect, and maybe even better than it has any right to be. And by "better," I mean funny. I mean, let's be clear: this movie didn't make me hurt myself laughing. But it kept me laughing, consistently, from beginning to end.

Credit must be given in large part to the editing. This movie's run time is all of 86 minutes, which is usually a red flag. But for a movie like this, in which the conceit usually outstays its welcome, it's perfect. And in this case, a team of three editors can only mean they were relentless about discarding anything that didn't work. Because this is a supremely silly movie in which everything left onscreen actually works.

And Popstar has a great many elements that would usually stack against it working, such as being packed to the gills with cameos of famous people playing themselves. This is a movie that satirizes pop star narcissism in which star after star evidently lined up to prove how they don't take themselves too seriously. Surely some of them tried too hard on set; there are way too many of them for that not to be the case. But again, only what works is put up onscreen -- including Mariah Carey gushing about how humble she is. Plenty of singers and rappers appear as talking heads for this "documentary," and somehow it never stops being fun. It never stops never stopping!

Maybe you've figured out that I had way better a time at this movie than I expected to. Andy Samberg, always an engaging screen presence, plays Conner, a pop star who is basically a cross between Justin Bieber and Macklemore, with maybe a dash of Justin Timberlake (who, incidentally, plays his personal chef). Shades of Beiber come from stock video footage of Conner as an actual baby killing it on the drums. Shades of Macklemore come with Conner's lead single from his Sophomore album, "Equal Rights," in which he extolls the virtues of same-sex marriage but keeps reminding us that he's not gay.

Conner's first album was a smash hit in the wake of the breakup of his boy band, The Style Boyz. One former member, Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer, who co-wrote and co-directed), has turned to a life of solitude as a farmer. The other former member, Owen (Jorma Taccone, who also co-wrote, with Somberg, and also co-directed), is now Conner's DJ, enduring such humiliations as using an iPod as his gear at concerts and using blatant Daft Punk rip-off helmets with blinking lights all over it. The story now tracks Conner's follow-up album, which he insisted on writing entirely by himself and pushing out Owen's beats. He sells out by getting a corporate sponsor that sells kitchen appliances that automatically play his music. The new album flops, and Conner, who has never known defeat, must learn how to cope.

This is a movie that could have easily been a downright disaster, overlong and unfunny and with too many jokes that don't land -- like most feature length comedies that try to run with a concept better suited for a sketch. But this is an unusually talented group of people working on this movie. Some jokes are better than others, sure, but I can't think of a single gag that landed with a thud. It gave me consistent laughs at best and mere chuckles at worst; usually the former. And Popstar is unabashedly, unrelentingly stupid -- but with unusually competent, even intelligent construction and presentation.

A big part of Popstar's success is The Lonely Island, the comedy music trio comprised of Samberg, Scaffer and Taccone, who did indeed achieve musical fame with songs written for Saturday Night Live. But, much like "Weird Al" Yankovic (who also appears amidst the sea of recognizable faces, though this time not playing himself), their songs are not just uniquely witty but also catchy. You might actually want to get the soundtrack when you're done watching this movie.

This is a tightly polished comedy that has the amazing achievement of over-delivering, exceeding expectations. It's perhaps objectively not a brilliant piece of work -- I mean, it's still no Airplane!, but it's closer to that level of cornball comic perfection than anything else seen in theatres in years. When it comes to the usually accepted quality of mainstream comedies these days, Popstar actually raises the bar.

Andy Samberg never stops never stopping in POPSTAR.

Overall: B+
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