Samberg stars as Conner4Real, a pop star of the highest order (and so clearly inspired by Justin Bieber that it’s borderline criminal). After gaining worldwide popularity, his star has fallen somewhat, just weeks before his latest album release (which he’s secretly dropping next Thursday at noon).
We’re told Conner has dozens of people in his posse, including a sneaker wrangler and a turtle handler. We’re shown snippets of his music videos and concert footage (including the razor-sharp “I’m So Humble”. Sample lyric: “I feel more humble than Dikembe Mutombo after a stumble left him covered in a big pot o’ gumbo. I guess in a way, bein’ gracious is my weakness. People say I’m so unpretentious for a genius.”) We also get interviews with real-life celebrities (Carrie Underwood, Nas, Ringo Starr) explaining how deeply Conner has inspired their own lives.
But then the album bombs. And his tour doesn’t sell out. And his opening act steals the show nightly. And then there’s that horribly unfortunate on-stage photo that goes viral.
The more that Conner crashes and burns, the more hilarious Popstar gets.
The script by Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer (Taccone and Schaffer also directed) is just about as brilliant and biting a commentary of the current pop music and social media scene as you could ask for. And even though some of the jokes land with a thud, far more actually stick the dismount, making you laugh along, even as you flinch for the intended targets.
Even better, the guys made sure to bring as many of their friends along for the ride as possible. Virtually everyone in this movie is somebody (Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Weird Al, Michael Bolton), and more importantly, they all clearly wanted to be here. Their collective buy-in makes Popstar even more of a rousing (and scathing) success.
Popstar is at times surreal, at other times over-the-top, and occasionally even cringe-worthy, but it’s never not entertaining. It’s been 32 years since This is Spinal Tap first brought the “mockumentary” to the mainstream, and now this generation has its own to enjoy…and at the expense of Bieber, to boot.