Film Review: The Lonely Island’s magnum opus

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Back in 1984 there was a massively successful (at least in terms of critics) film called This is Spinal Tap, a mockumentary that focused on a rock group that was on their way down due to inner conflict and a lack of ability to really connect with the outside world due to the blinding nature of fame. It was very funny but also very clever and allowed for absurd humour to go hand-in-hand with excellent writing. A lot of people have compared this film to Spinal Tap and I feel like it is a very appropriate comparison to make. This film is insanely funny but also very clever and it fires off jokes at a rapid-fire speed with a surprising success rate.

Like I said, the film is a mockumentary and it follows Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) from his beginnings as a musical prodigy with his buddies, Kid Contact and Kid Brain (Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaeffer, respectively) as the Style Boyz to his solo career where he retains the services of Kid Contact as his DJ but Kid Brain has abandoned him and left music altogether to run a farm. Meanwhile, Conner’s latest single is panned by critics and is down in sales so his manager (Tim Meadows) gets desperate and hires crazed rapper Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), who of course becomes even bigger than Conner and causes him to slide further down the fame ladder.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

The acting is a who’s who of talented comedians including the Lonely Island themselves of course. Andy Samberg is a legitimately talented rapper which definitely helps when playing someone as ridiculous as his Conner4Real character. Even though he’s crazy most of the time there are some really good subtle moments from Andy, who has definitely grown as a comedic performer over the years. Jorma as his DJ does a good job at being a put-upon character who we mostly sympathize with while Akiva gets a ton of funny moments as the third member of the group who is clearly completely out of his element working on a farm. It’s great to see Tim Meadows play a fairly big role here and he does a great job as well. His sudden outburst is a hoot but he really shines in a scene that is only heard in which he and Conner fight a whole nest of bees. There are so many other fun performers and cameos. Some of my favourites included Joan Cusack as Conner’s coke-addicted mother, Bill Hader as his guitar handler, Sarah Silverman as his manager and Maya Rudolph (“De-BORA”) just to name a few people. I don’t wanna give away too many of the cameos because otherwise it would ruin too much of the film. I will say that there are a lot of testimonials from real musicians playing themselves that gives the film a certain authenticity that it desires.

This is a great parody of those films where someone rises to fame, screws the pooch one too many times and then dramatically falls from grace with some hilarious situations along the way. The first thing I want to mention are the songs. If you enjoy the Lonely Island you will love the music. From one ditty about a girl having a rather odd sexual request (specifically to fornicate her the way that the US government “f*cked Bin Laden”) to another about how everyone should have equal rights (complete with Conner reminding people at every waking moment that he’s totally straight). The songs are all very funny and with some of them only showing up in quick snippets (I’m looking at you, Mona Lisa) you’ll surely be searching for the full versions after watching the film.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

There are some really inspired comedic sequences in the film from the aforementioned off-screen bee fight to the introduction of Hunter the Hungry to a scene in which Conner signs an appendage he was not expecting to see pop in his limo window. I also really enjoyed a true-to-life scene in which Conner’s girlfriend says she was inspired by Hollywood couples and always wondered if they were really in love… and so she wanted to be one of those. All of this is done in a mostly-deadpan manner with a tongue firmly planted in cheek and, much like This is Spinal Tap, some top-notch writing and performances. If you thought Hot Rod was very funny (I happen to love the film) but thought that they should’ve gone even further and pushed the boundaries of their outrageous humour then this is the movie for you. They push the envelope and don’t look back. The good news: it pays off in spades.

****

 

Rating System:

* (Brutal; the worst rating)

** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)

*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)

**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)

***** (Flawless; a true achievement)