If you are excited by the prospect of a Lonely Island movie, I have good news for you. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a Lonely Island movie in every way, packed with music and jokes. At 90 minutes, it moves fast, and it offers up some laser-sharp satire. If there’s any overall problem with the film, it is that they’ve made a very specific satire of a target that is so ridiculous it almost resists parody.
It’s easy to just make the comparison to This Is Spinal Tap, the mockumentary that launched Rob Reiner’s career as a director, but Popstar is a reaction to a very different kind of film than Spinal Tap was. You have to go back and look at films like The Song Remains The Same or The Kids Are Alright to understand what the culture was that Spinal Tap targeted, while modern music documentaries have a very different aesthetic and purpose. The Justin Bieber documentary that is this film’s primary target was fascinating because it’s such an obvious attempt to create a mythology around a pop star. The Katy Perry documentary was even better at what it did, but it contained a moment that I found particularly interesting. So much of Katy Perry: Part Of Me is focused on showing what a fun and frothy person she is that including the moment where she learns that she’s getting divorced over a cell phone was almost jarring. It punctured the image completely, and for one moment in the film, we get a glimpse of this real person and her real life and some real pain, and then SNAP! We’re right back into fantasy land. There’s one moment as she’s under the stage, ready to go on, and she has to shake all of it off, that says more about what it’s like to create one of these larger-than-life personae and then have to live it even when you don’t feel like doing it than any think piece could, and it feels accidental, like it snuck through.