Justin Bieber is a teen ream for many teen girls. He gets a decidedly more adult treatment in “Pop star: Never Stop Never Stopping,” the new parody from Andy Samberg, Kiva Schaffer and Norma Tacoma a.k.a. the Lonely Island. Rated 14A for coarse language, nudity and substance abuse it may be a nightmare for hard-core Bielbers.
Samberg stars as Conner4Real, a Bieber-esque performer and former singer for boy band Style Boyz (Schaffer and Tacoma, who also co-direct). Despite the title of his big hit, “I’m So Humble,” (“I’m number one on the humble list!”) he’s a pampered pop star with an entourage—including a turtle wrangler, a weed roller, a short guy who hangs around to make Connor look taller and a movie star girlfriend (Imogen Poots)—that makes Elvis’s Memphis Mafia look restrained. When we first meet him, he’s at the top of the pops but when his sophomore album—hilariously titled Connquest—stiffs he learns who his real friends are as he struggles to stay popular.
A loving, and sublimely silly look at concert films like “Katy Perry: Part of Me” and “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” “Popstar” features real-life musicians, Nas, Akon, 50 Cent, Seal, Pink, Snoop Dogg, Usher, Questlove, DJ Khaled as talking-heads as it skewers the more ridiculous aspects of its (mostly) fictional lead character. It’s a millennial “Spinal Tap” that takes aim at the excesses of pop life—clueless social commentary, absurd catchphrases, gratuitous nudity to cultural appropriation, it’s all here—but at its poppy heart its really about friendship and family.
The scenes of satire are often ripped from the TMZ’s headlines—there’s an incident at the Anne Frank House and a costume malfunction that derails Connor’s public reputation—which feel familiar while still drawing a laugh. Better than those are the sly comments on how fame works in the Age of Kardashian. “There is no such thing as selling out,” Connor coos. “These days if you don’t sell out people think nobody’s interested.” Much of the film is as deep as one of Bieber’s teen love laments, but occasionally it hits a little harder and the laughs get a little deeper. But make no mistake this is R-rated stuff that revels in its idiotically smart humour.
The targets in “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’s” crosshairs are obvious and, frankly, easy pickings, but the film’s combination of catchy-if-ridiculous songs, appealing performances and fast-paced parody make it a chart topper.