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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
June 19, 2016, 7:54 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director: Jorma Taccone & Akiva Schaffer
2.5 Stars
Popstar - Never Stop Never StoppingThat The Lonely Island has found such success is a triumph of cultural criticism—their videos go viral because of their shocking, laugh-out-loud lyrics, but the real jokes have always been how perfectly they distill contemporary pop music into a single. So too does Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping work to parody not just the pop documentary, but to capture the spirit of the 21st century image factory, consisting of constant Snapchat updates and self-conscious branding opportunities (it is considered lame to not sell out). But, like their music, the group might have too much affection for what they’re parodying to function as great satirists. Popstar is wrought as a redemption story, where friendship succeeds in the end and becomes a triumph greater than fame. And, like the crowd-pleasing finale, the film largely plays as ninety minutes of fan service, including an obscene amount of cameos from the music industry. That these cameos happen in droves should send up red flags that the criticism is toothless (one exception given to Mariah Carey, who consciously pokes fun at her own image). Regardless, the film’s bigger problem is that, although every tenth joke really lands, many of the outrageous gags fall flat. If films like Airplane! have successfully made surreal gags work, it is because the lunacy of the scene is part of an established absurd universe. When R&B icon Seal encounters rampaging wolves in Popstar, the scene is built around reaction shots in which the actors respond to the strangeness of what’s happening. Not only does the film stretch to incorporate the bizarre image, it then underlines the very preposterous nature of it—it’s the equivalent of a comedian explaining his own joke immediately after getting a laugh from it.

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