Arts & Culture

Lonely Island’s satirical ‘Popstar’ delivers expected laughs

Ivy Film Festival’s free, advanced screening parodies celebrity culture, today’s music scene

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 12, 2016

“I’d love to get Conner to the point where he’s just kind of everywhere … like oxygen or gravity or clinical depression,” said Sarah Silverman, who plays Paula, publicist for music’s hottest star of the moment, Conner4Real, in the upcoming film, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.”

The film, which will hit theaters in June, was brought to the Martinos Auditorium in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts for a free, advanced screening as part of the Ivy Film Festival Sunday. The theater echoed with laughs as the student audience enjoyed the latest comedic offering from The Lonely Island — Avika Schaffer, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone — whose members produced, wrote and starred in the film. Judd Apatow and Rodney Rothman also produced the film.

Samberg stars as rapper Conner4Real, a Justin Bieber-esque breakout star from The Style Boyz, a rap group that Conner started with his childhood friends. The group, since dissolved, was comprised of Owen, played by Jorma Taccone and Lawrence, played by Avika Schaffer. Owen stayed on as Conner’s DJ to support him and watch as he became a solo star in his own right, while Lawrence left the music industry to don a series of jumpsuits as a farmer and part-time woodcarver.

The movie follows Conner as his sophomore solo album, “CONNQuest,” flops hard, leaving his music manager, played by Tim Meadows, and publicist Paula to help him pick up the pieces of his career.

Filmed in a documentary style, the movie parodies concert films like “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” providing ample time for talking head interviews from a host of music industry figures such as Simon Cowell, A$AP Rocky, Usher, Nas and Ringo Starr, who offered their critiques of Conner’s music and career choices.

In addition to star cameos, the film is packed with a very typical mix of SNL alums drawn from The Lonely Island’s stint on the cast. Along with Tim Meadows and Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph plays the prim and proper representative of Conner’s corporate sponsor who struggles to relate to young, cool stars like Conner4Real. Bill Hader shows up for a memorable scene as Zippy, Conner’s eccentric and somewhat anachronistic guitar tech who explains his pet interest in flatlining: lowering his heart rate to the point of death and then restarting it.

“Popstar” is a film ultra-aware of the pop culture it inhabits — Conner overshares in snaps and instas just like a modern star, DJ Khaled offers cogent advice on the importance of a good catchphrase to any artist’s career (“When you have a catchphrase, the world is catched by your phrase”) and Conner announces to his followers on social media that he’s dropping his “surprise” album Thursday at four o’clock.

Some of the film’s funniest moments come from these very current references. Conner’s opening act, played by Chris Redd, is the character Hunter the Hungry, a parody of Tyler the Creator, complete with aggressively offensive lyrics and Tyler’s trademark love of pranks.

The Lonely Island trio is most famous for viral music videos like “Dick in a Box” and “Jack Sparrow,” and they don’t skimp on the music here. The film’s songs are about as hilarious as the lyrics are unprintable. Conner’s lead single from “CONNQuest” is “Equal Rights,” a loosely veiled parody of Macklemore’s “Same Love.” In the song, Conner announces his support for the LBGTQ community and calls for marriage equality (“It’s allowed now!” says a confused Ringo Starr) while assuring his fans of his own heterosexuality, delivering the chorus, “I’m not gay.”

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