I've seen a few critics who have dared to place an unusual pick on their Top Movie Lists of 2016. Unafraid to be seen endorsing a less highbrow movie, they've given a nod to Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. This movie from the Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone) is a fake documentary about Justin Bieber-esque musician "Conner4Real." After breaking away from his old boy band with a monstrously successful solo album, he's now releasing a follow-up... and dealing with the fallout when it turns out to be a massive flop.
Popstar is essentially a This Is Spinal Tap for the current times. That might offend some people that regard This Is Spinal Tap as a classic. Still, no matter how much you might love it, a new take certainly feels called for, given how much the music industry has changed in the last three decades. And while it's debatable whether any of Popstar's dialogue will enter the lexicon alongside "these go to eleven," there are certainly some good laughs here.
The parody of Popstar is quite sharp, taking aim at everything from "surprise" releases, the free U2 album debacle, and promotion through social media to self-aggrandizing "message" music, over-the-top stagecraft, and music documentary movies themselves. There is, quite simply, some damn clever writing here -- and perhaps nowhere more so than in the original songs created for the film. The movie maintains such a breakneck pace that you rarely get to hear more than a bit of each tune, but they're all funny enough to make me want to seek out the Lonely Island album that accompanied the movie.
Cameos abound, used to great effect. Real musicians are ready and willing to mess around with insane comedy premises, or flat-out lampoon their own images. It's sometimes shocking how many music celebrities were willing to risk biting the hand that feeds them... but it also speaks to their appreciation of the overall joke being told here.
Perhaps this movie came and went quickly in theaters because people didn't want to pay for "one long Lonely Island video" when dozens of them can be watched online for free. And to be fair, the movie doesn't quite reach a "can't breathe" level of constant hilarity. But it is worth seeing, assuming you can enjoy its sometimes profane and/or explicit moments.