Fans of absurd humour, sharp wit, pop culture satire and stupidity rejoice, because The Lonely Island’s debut foray into feature mockumentary isn’t just well executed but downright hilarious.
For the first time since Christopher Guest introduced the sub-genre with This is Spinal Tap in 1984 comes a music mockumentary that can actually hold an iPhone torch to the sweet absurdity that was Nigel Tufnel, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins. And that includes the master’s own attempts to follow up the cult classic with myriad films such as A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman and For Your Consideration – all decent films in their own right.
But where The Lonely Island trio of Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone succeed is through the extension of the unique voice they’ve honed over the past decade with hits such as ‘Jizz in My Pants,’ ‘I’m on a Boat’ and ‘Dick In A Box.’ And that Saturday Night Live sensibility to shine a light on celebrity absurdity with tongue planted firmly in cheek and the ability to convince even the biggest names to satirize themselves. Hell, Mariah Carey – one of countless cameos – rips right into herself as a diva.
And with reality TV, social media, outrage culture and YouTube stars having changed the music and celebrity landscape considerably since Spinal Tap, the lads have no shortage of material to draw inspiration from. And it’s fast and funny from the get go, relentlessly poking fun at inane rap lyrics (“I am the humble-ist, my apple crumble is the crumble-ist”), gratuitous music videos and OTT Snapchat shares.
Popstar follows the exploits of Conner4Real, a dim-witted former rap group star (with The Style Boyz – who at one stage compare themselves to the Wu Tang Clan before quickly retracting it) who’s about to drop his second solo album Thriller after leaving the group.
Anything but subtle, it’s an over-the-top send up of the excess lifestyles and self-involved culture promoted by celebrities and the people who feed off of them. At one stage, to test who his real friends are, the clueless Conner makes pancakes for his possy – complete with dogshit. And when all but one insist they’re delicious, he quickly realises how alone he is in the world despite all the money, fame, followers and likes. More pointed is the fact he has 20 million followers on Instagram but only 65,000 of them have bought his new record.
There’s plenty of absurdity and gut laughs from the start to end in this rise, fall and rise again tale that features everything from wolf attacks (but “Party Wolves” received a five-star review on Yelp), dickless wardrobe malfunctions and taking a dump in the Anne Frank House. The latter being one of countless jokes at Justin Bieber’s expense, that start with Conner being a baby drummer, who’s raised by his party-hard mum (a travelling groupie with Fall Out Boy) and that green letterman jacket and tattoos. It’s as inspired as it is absurd.
The format is tried and true, and is almost a case of art imitating life for The Lonely Island trio who formed a comedy troupe in college before Samberg made it big on SNL – the other two behind the scenes as writers and directors. Conner blows up as a solo artist and leaves his friends in the shade before eventually reuniting with buddies – one who DJs for him in a Deadmau5-esque helmet likened to “the tip of Optimus Prime’s dick” and the other who became a weed-growing recluse.
And combined with a solid list of hilarious self-contradictory songs such as “Equal Rights/Not Gay”, “Mona Lisa (is a Piece of Shit)”, “I’m So Humble” and “(Fuck Like) Bin Laden”, it’s hands down the funniest comedy of 2016.
And somehow, in that Lonely Island way, they manage to skewer everyone from Bieber to Kanye to Katy Perry and beyond without actually offending anyone.