While many films stand the test of time, others fade into obscurity. Whether this happens over a period of years or almost instantly upon a film’s release, each of these titles has slipped through the cracks of our collective memory to join the ranks of the Films That Time Forgot.
The career trajectory of Andy Samberg can be easily tracked from his beginnings on YouTube, through his time on Saturday Night Live, and onto his starring roles in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hot Rod, and numerous other films. Samberg is also known for his ongoing collaborative partnership with the other members of The Lonely Island – consisting of Samberg and his childhood friends Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, the group rose to prominence together, remaining close friends and creative partners as their careers have progressed. Despite their success, one of the most major projects they have collaborated on somehow slipped through the cracks: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.
For those who enjoy The Lonely Island’s work, Popstar is a comfortably predictable continuation of their established style. It stars Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer alongside Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman, and Chris Redd, alongside a bevy of big-name music industry cameos. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping‘s mockumentary style is used primarily as a framing device, and it facilitates much of the film’s comedy. Stars like Usher, DJ Khaled, ASAP Rocky, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, and Snoop Dogg all praising the fictional group “The Style Boyz” and Samberg’s Conner4Real lends a credence to the film’s story that allows its satire of the music industry to land without feeling spiteful or unnecessary.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping chronicles the rise of The Style Boyz (played by the members of The Lonely Island), and the rift caused by Conner4Real’s successful solo career. Its story is relatively straightforward, and clearly references a number of similar boy band break-ups, drawing inspiration from a handful of real-life sources. This helps keeps the film grounded even in its more ridiculous moments, backed up by its many cameos.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Is Safe Satire – Is That Why It Flopped?
Satirizing the music industry can be pretty fertile soil for a good movie (This Is Spinal Tap, anyone?), but Popstar was a box office bomb, not even recouping half of its $20 million budget. On paper, this never should have happened: the film’s three stars are successful comedians, actors, and musicians, and the sheer amount of cameos from music industry figures and SNL alums should have shored up its box office appeal. Samberg in particular was the star of the hugely successful and popular Brooklyn Nine-Nine at the time, and that should have made Popstar a pretty safe bet.
Though Popstar wasn’t lauded by critics, it received generally positive reviews, so the most likely reason for this box office bombing was actually the nature of its satire. With so many cameos peppered throughout, it comes off more like the music industry satirizing itself rather than comedians poking fun at star culture, and that does take Popstar‘s teeth somewhat. It feels well-intentioned, but that means that there’s much less bite in its satire, which ultimately softens the overall impact of the film.
Picking apart other elements of Popstar, it holds up surprisingly well. Samberg, Schaffer, and Taccone are able to carry their real-life chemistry over to the screen, and their flair for musical comedy is evident throughout, with a number of frustratingly catchy and ridiculous songs used to brilliant effect. There’s a musical and visual spectacle to the film that gives it a unique feel, and those familiar with the work of The Lonely Island will be unsurprised by its general comedic beats: it’s a little vulgar, liberally ridiculous, and entirely self-aware.
It certainly seems that Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping‘s only crime is softening the blow for the intended target of its satire. It isn’t the most innovative film, but for satire of this nature, it really doesn’t need to be. It all seems well-intentioned, feeling as much a love letter to the capacity for creative expression afforded by the music industry as it does a condemnation of its splendor. Its only overall message is one of friendship, making it a wholesome comedy that doesn’t set out to actively offend anyone, and that should only be seen as a good thing – particularly as it carries these laughs off consistently and triumphantly.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the sort of film that deserves so much better. Its cult following is well-earned, but it really shouldn’t go forgotten by so many. It’s a competently made comedy that offers easy laughter and catchy music, sweeping its audience up in a sense of fun that’s as enjoyable as it is victimless. There’s very little not to enjoy about Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, with the fact that it’s so criminally underrated being perhaps the only element that’s likely to leave a sour taste in the mouth.
Summary: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping proves that The Lonely Island’s particular brand of chaotic musical comedy translates brilliantly to the big screen, and it’s a film that deserves a far better reputation than it has been afforded.
Highlight: “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” is one of Popstar‘s most shockingly bizarre and brilliantly funny moments, but its final musical scene is as catchy as it is triumphant – it’s a toss-up between the two, and they both stem from Popstar‘s excellent comedic soundtrack.