Saturday, February 25, 2017
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone and written and starring Schaffer, Taccone, and Andy Samberg, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the story of a pop music artist who embarks on a world tour to promote his second album where everything goes wrong as he struggles with trying to be successful and popular. The film is told in a mockumentary fashion as it follows the life of a pop star who shares too much of himself as he does whatever he can to sell records and be in the spotlight unaware of the chaos he’s creating. Also starring Imogen Poots, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Chris Redd, and Tim Meadows. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a hilarious and outlandish film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.
The film is told in a documentary fashion about the pop star Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) and the release of his sophomore solo release Connquest and its world tour as his attempts to be a bigger star and stay away from the shadow of his old group the Style Boyz. Yet, Conner4Real would endure not failure but also becoming desperate to be in the limelight where he would lose sight of things. Even as he would take part in publicity stunts that went wrong while his opening act in the hip-hop artist Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd) would overshadow him and more. The film’s screenplay by the Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone doesn’t just play into the world of pop stardom where the individual is too open with his fans but is also so keen on becoming everything to all people that he’s kind of lost touch with reality.
Especially as there are people who are more interested in a Style Boyz reunion but Conner4Real refuses even though he has his former Style Boyz bandmate Owen (Jorma Taccone) as his DJ. The script’s narrative kind of moves back and forth with interviews from real musicians and other celebrity personalities with some such as Nas talk about how great the Style Boyz were and what broke them up as it relates to Conner becoming a bigger star than Owen and the band’s lyricist Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) as the latter leaves the industry to become a farmer. The film also play into things that Conner does that are outlandish in his attempt to stay in the limelight as his goal is to perform at a pop music awards show.
The film’s direction by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone is quite straightforward where it does play into conventional aesthetics of a documentary but it’s also not afraid to make fun of everything that is happening. Much of the compositions in the film are straightforward where they also use cellphones as cameras to play into the extreme openness of Conner. The concert scenes definitely have these massive wide and medium shots into how big Conner’s shows are but also have this element of being bloated to express Conner’s own ego and willingness to entertain as it makes fun of the many trends in contemporary music which also include Owen wearing some big prop on his head like other EDM artists. The film also has scenes where it makes fun of publicity stunts and other things where it does have an element of realism that is exaggerated but all for its humor. Especially as it goes into some offbeat moments as well as providing some satire such as a spoof on the celebrity news program TMZ as a lot of it is smacked on. Overall, Schaffer and Taccone create a fun and whimsical comedy about a pop star dealing with failure and his own ego.
Cinematographer Brandon Trost does excellent work with the cinematography as it is largely straightforward with some unique lighting for the concert scenes as well as some of the scenes set at night. Editors Jamie Gross, Craig Alpert, and Stacey Schroeder do terrific work with the editing as it largely feature some montage cutting into Conner‘s rise into stardom and some of the antics he does as well as some jump-cuts that are kind of common with documentaries. Production designer Jon Billington, with set decorator Lori Mazuer and art director Ramsey Avery, does amazing work with the look of the stage that Conner performs at with all of its lights and props as well as his tour bus and lavish mansion.
Visual effects supervisor David Niednagel does nice work with some of the visual effects that include some holograms and other weird shit that Conner uses for his shows. Sound editor George H. Anderson does superb work with the sound in the way the crowd sounds for the shows including that one fan at the upper deck during a non-sell out show. The film’s music score by Matthew Compton is wonderful as it is mostly low-key electronic music while music supervisors George Drakoulias and Randall Poster provided a soundtrack filled with pop and hip-hop include many original songs by the Lonely Island as music for Conner4Real, the Style Boyz, Hunter the Hungry, and other fictional performers.
The casting by Allison Jones is great as it feature some notable small roles and cameos from Danny Strong as a member of Conner’s entourage who is shorter than him, Joanna Newsome as Conner’s steam punk doctor, Bill Hader as a guitar tech, Will Forte as a bagpipes player, Will Arnett as a TMZ reporter, Kevin Nealon as a photographer, Ashley Moore as Conner’s personal assistant, James Buckley as a member of Conner’s entourage, and Weird Al Yankovic as a heavy metal singer. Other cameos with people playing themselves include Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Nas, Questlove, Jimmy Fallon, Snoop Dogg, Seal, Ringo Starr, Carrie Underwood, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire, RZA, and the Roots.
Joan Cusack is wonderful as Conner’s mother who joins the tour early on as well as be the one to give him his beloved turtle Maximus as a child. Imogen Poots is fantastic as Conner’s movie star girlfriend Ashley Wednesday as someone who goes along for the ride until a marriage proposal publicity stunt goes horribly wrong. Maya Rudolph is superb in her small role as Deborah as an executive for an appliance manufacturer that would sponsor Conner’s tour until a stunt to launch the tour goes wrong. Chris Redd is excellent as Hunter the Hungry as a brash up-and-coming rapper who becomes Conner’s opening act that started off as an ally only to overshadow and humiliate him. Sarah Silverman is brilliant as Conner’s publicist Paula Klein who tries to do whatever she can to get Conner for an appearance at an awards show while being a conscience of sorts who is aware that things aren’t going well. Tim Meadows is amazing as Conner’s manager Harry who also managed the Style Boyz and was a former member of Tony Toni Tone` that is trying to deal with the business and what is happening with Conner and the tour.
Akiva Schaffer is hilarious as Lawrence as a former member/lyricist of the Style Boyz who becomes a farmer as he feels underappreciated for his work while thinks Conner is going the wrong way with the music. Jorma Taccone is terrific as Owen as another former member of the Style Boyz who is Conner’s DJ that is trying to cope with the extravagance of the tour while being the one true friend that Conner has. Finally, there’s Andy Samberg in an incredible performance as Conner Friel/Conner4Real as a pop star who is embarking on a world tour for his second album unaware of how bad the record is as well as surrounding himself with too many people who aren’t honest with him as he loses touch with reality and literally exposes himself in the worst ways as it’s just so funny to watch.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is marvelous film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone that is a spot-on spoof on the extravagant world of contemporary pop music. It’s a film that isn’t just entertaining filled with a great cast, funny cameos, and some hilarious songs but it’s also a witty satire that showcases some of the drawbacks of 21st Century stardom. In the end, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a remarkable film from Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone.
© thevoid99 2017