If you are going to do a music mockumentary then This is Spinal Tap has to be your touch-point. You can either avoid all similarities or embrace what your film could be by building on the best aspects of that movie. Popstar arguably does the second or to compliment it further, updates This is Spinal Tap for a modern generation.
This movie is not about ageing rockers but instead focuses on a boy-band member who has managed to go solo and is trying to maintain his fame, popularity and general momentum: but he’s an idiot! That idiot is played by Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samburg, who also co-writes the movie as well, and he is playing to all the worst stereotypes of the modern Justin Bieber/Lady Gaga/Katy Perry style celebrity with their outlandish lifestyles, crazy riders and out of control entourage. It isn’t done cheaply though and is very clever and best of all very funny. The jokes are silly but only in the clear parody that they are mocking and in a lot of cases, it never feels too far from reality or something that could actually occur in this side of the entertainment business.
Samburg’s Conner is also a well written character. He is obnoxious but in an ignorant way, so redemption never feels like an impossibility. He has a great backstory and one that clearly mirrors the careers of plenty of current popstars without being too direct or obvious. He also has plenty of celebrity endorsement too, from the likes of Nas, 50 Cent, Simon Cowell, Mariah Carey and Adam Levine. Each of them clearly get the joke, play to it well and are not afraid to embarrass themselves.
This is particularly clear in the case of Adam Levine who gets to perform on one of the many featured songs. The songs are in the same ilk as those you would have heard on Saturday Night Live’s Lonely Island (of which Samburg is a member, as well as co-director Jorma Taccone). If you like their songs then these do not disappoint. They are clever, well-written, catchy and best of all very funny, with shots taken at Osama Bin Laden, Homophobia and the Mona Lisa. The songs in a music mockumentary are really important and Popstar nails this perfectly.
The story should be very important too and there is a clear if somewhat predictable thread tying the humour together. The story is almost secondary to the raft of jokes and because of this, and the very predictable way the story plays-out, it does begin to lose the comedy momentum towards the end when the film needs to let the drama and heart through to the forefront as well. It does make up for this with a great final performance and superb, random cameo though.
Overall, Popstar is This is Spinal Tap for the modern generation. There are some amazing moments, great commentaries on the state of celebrity and the music industry today, as well as amazing, very funny songs. The story can get in the way of the humour but this is still a great movie.
Rating – 4
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