Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – Review (*** 1/2)

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Finding Dory

The Lonely Island reinvigorate the Spinal Tap formula for the iPhone generation with this terrifically silly, consistently hilarious mockumentary that’ll effortlessly appeal to the comedy band’s fans, and more broadly most anyone faintly aware of current pop music trends.

Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) is a recording artist who, after the catastrophic bombing of his second solo album, is struggling to make sense of the fleeting nature of fame, and the perceived success of other talents. Conner must then consider reconnecting with his former boyband co-members (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) to get back on top.

If you’re a fan of The Lonely Island’s outrageous brand of pop-culture satire, then this is basically that on big-budget steroids. Largely a series a of SNL skits pasted together with new songs intercut, much of the pic’s fun instead comes from the conveyor belt of absurd cameos, ranging from 50 Cent to Ringo Starr, Simon Cowell, Carrie Underwood, Seal and so many more that shouldn’t be spoiled. That’s without even mentioning the “proper actors” who show up to play new characters; Emma Stone, Maya Rudolph, Imogen Poots, Will Arnett, Bill Hader and Joan freaking Cusack to name just a few.

Movies of this sort tend to be fairly scattershot, yet Popstar is startlingly consistent with its gags for the most part; the hit-rate is unexpectedly high, while it smartly doesn’t stay put in a single comedic corner for too long. More than all this, more than all its vulgar humour and pot-shots at celebrities, there is an unexpected smartness to the satire, namely what is surely the cleverest gag ever written about pancakes laced with dog shit.

It picks a broad target but resists the temptation to make the easiest possible jokes each time; there’s a free-wheeling, surreal nature to much of the film’s humour, while co-directors Schaffer and Taccone nail the documentary aesthetic perfectly, even as they get some digs in at that as well.

You probably know whether you’ll like it or not before you even see it or read a review; it’s more imaginative madness from the terrific trio, though its unfortunate box office failure suggests it probably would’ve fared better as a VOD release.

*** 1/2

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is in US cinemas now and UK cinemas August 26th

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