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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Blu-ray)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // September 13, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted September 14, 2016 | E-mail the Author

All three members of The Lonely Island---Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer---have been a collective comedic force for two decades, not to mention a reliable presence on YouTube and shows like Saturday Night Live and Comedy Bang! Bang! during the last ten years. 2007 saw the release of their debut film Hot Rod, an entertaining blend of surreal sketch comedy and death-defying stunts. A successful detour into the music industry two years later led to a Grammy nomination, four albums, and multiple platinum/gold singles along the way, thanks to their particular brand of juvenile satire and loads of catchy pop hooks. They're now veterans of comedy, music, and film before the age of 40, so why not combine all three into their most naturally-fitting production to date?

A mockumentary cut from the same cloth as This Is Spinal Tap and its many imitators, The Lonely Island's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) takes aim at today's music industry and the ever-changing relationship between celebrities and their followers in light of recent concert films like Justin Bieber's Believe and Katy Perry: Part of Me. It skewers deserving targets like TMZ, entitled fans, and addicts of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, never forgetting that its biggest mark is the almost-believable pop star that's placed front and center. This petulant man-child is one Conner Friel AKA "Conner4Real" (Andy Samberg), a former member of pop trio The Style Boyz along with childhood friends Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer). Conner's ego led to the group's disbandment (Owen now serves as his neglected DJ, while Lawrence is a farmer who dabbles in woodworking), and his subsequent success as a solo artist has led to huge expectations for upcoming sophomore album CONNquest.

After a disastrous marketing idea leads to dismal sales and toxic reviews, Conner grasps at straws to stay in the spotlight...but Owen, manager Harry (Tim Meadows), and publicist Paula (Sarah Silverman) are the only voices of reason behind the scenes, and aren't always afraid to call him on it. The rest of his massive entourage is either dead weight or sycophants; along with the influence of Conner's degenerate mom Tilly (Joan Cusack), it's painfully obvious how Conner's head has gradually become so far lodged up his own ass. It'll take nothing more than a complete 180, in the form of a long-awaited reunion of The Style Boyz, before Conner's got a chance at redemption.

As a big-screen production that showcases The Lonely Island's greatest strengths (clever lyrics, catchy pop hooks, and surreal humor), Popstar does a decent job of hiding their greatest weakness (knowing when to ease off the jokes). Like Hot Rod---and to a lesser extent, the equally underrated MacGruber, directed by Taccone---it falls right in line with the group's typical brand of humor, with the added bonus of being a sampler of their fourth album. The music is obviously the highlight here, as is Samberg's easy but enjoyable turn as the clueless pop megastar...and to the film's credit, it achieves a bit of well-earned drama in the home stretch. Yet just before that, Popstar almost goes off the rails: the massive list of celebrity faux-interviews (including the likes of Ringo Starr, Questlove, Nas, Simon Cowell, Usher, Mariah Carey, RZA, Pharrell Williams, and many more) start to wear thin...as do a handful of less interesting subplots, like the addition of Tyler the Creator stand-in Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd).

But as a whole, Popstar offers plenty of laughs and some of the group's best songs to date, creating a fairly durable comedy that (unfortunately) failed at the box office. That's no big surprise for fans of The Lonely Island, and just one more reason why Universal's Blu-ray package should be on your radar: it's got a terrific A/V presentation and plenty of great extras, mostly in the form of deleted scenes and other bits of bonus footage. All things considered, Popstar will sit nicely alongside Hot Rod and MacGruber, even if it's enjoyable for different reasons.

Presented in its original 2.40 aspect ratio (which doesn't at all suit the mockumentary genre, but I digress), this 1080p transfer of Popstar looks extremely good. The digitally-shot Popstar uses a bit more CGI than you'd expect---an accompanying audio commentary goes into more detail---and the results are mostly seamless. Overall image detail and textures are strong with plenty of depth, while many of the neon-infused landscapes (clubs, arenas, etc.) have excellent shadow detail and only the slightest hints of color blooming. Outdoor sequences also fare well, as do most of the talking-head interviews peppered throughout the film. Flashbacks and other bits of "old footage" keep their original aspect ratio, which hovers between 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 (this isn't always a given for documentaries, real or not). No compression issues, aliasing, banding, or other such problems were spotted along the way.


DISCLAIMER: The still images and promotional photos on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

Not surprisingly, the default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix carries plenty of weight, easily supporting this music-driven production with excellent channel separation, clear dialogue, strong bass, and no shortage of rear-channel activity during live performances and music video breaks. Interviews and indoor conversations are obviously more dialed-back in direct comparison, with mostly front-and-center audio that nonetheless gets the job done. Optional Spanish and French dubs (DTS 5.1), as well as a DVS track, are offered during the main feature. English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles have been included during the film and all appropriate extras---always a welcome touch.

The interface uses Universal's standard template (boring, but neatly organized), with options for chapter selection, audio/subtitle setup, and extras, along with a handy "Resume" function. Four trailers must be dealt with beforehand; the first one looked so awful I didn't even bother looking at the other three. This two-disc release (one Blu-ray, one DVD) arrives in a dual-hubbed keepcase, along with a Digital Copy code and an embossed slipcover.

Plenty of great extras, but only one of them attempts to document what happened behind the scenes: a feature-length Audio Commentary with all three members of The Lonely Island (Jorma is recorded via cell phone, and he's mocked relentlessly for it). As expected, this laid-back and casual chat serves up a good mixture of jokes and more traditional behind-the-scenes stuff; topics of interest include commentary clich├ęs (narration, lapses into silence), borrowing live footage from One Direction, Easter eggs and cameos, abusive co-directors, shooting on the Universal lot (including the Back to the Future clock tower), Facebook shout-outs, the bee scene, location scouting in LA, using the wolves from Game of Thrones, craft services with Justin Timberlake, working with Judd Apatow, chilling at Home Depot, favorite scenes from the movie, About Schmidt, and much more. It's not quite as gut-busting as expected (and the fact that they aren't all "together" is a bummer), but fans of the film should still give it a listen.

The rest of the supplements, in one form or another, are either Deleted and Extended Scenes or other Bonus Footage clips not used in the final cut. Most of the material runs for about an hour total: this includes a section with more than two dozen deleted scenes (some of these should've been left in, honestly), as well as a half-dozen other individual bonus clips and extended scenes that include "How to Donkey Roll", "Big Boy Freestyle", "Frog Jizz", "Shooting Hoops", "Turn Up The Beef Backstory", "Sex Tape", and "Fun at CMZ". On a related note, there's also a short but enjoyable Gag Reel (4 minutes) and a handful of Interview Outtakes with more talking head celebrity cameos.

My favorite extra, though, is a collection of six Music Videos either glimpsed during the film or already released as singles; these include the full-length "Equal Rights" with additional promo clips, "Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)", "Mona Lisa", "I'm A Weirdo", "Fuck Off", and "Legalize It", and might be collectively more enjoyable than the film itself ("I'm So Humble" is absent, but it pretty much plays in full during the opening credits). Like the other extras, these are presented in 1080p with optional English subtitles; the only drawback is Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, rather than lossless. Overall, it's disappointing that there isn't more behind-the-scenes stuff or marketing material (posters, talk show appearances, trailers), but otherwise this is packed considering Popstar's poor box-office results.

For better or worse (mostly better), Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is definitely the most "Lonely Island" of The Lonely Island's films thus far: filled with the group's subversive and juvenile brand of humor, sharp jabs at deserving targets, and ultra-catchy pop songs, it'll definitely appeal to even the group's most casual fans. That said, the film has a handful of speed bumps along the way, frequently losing focus during the middle and relying a bit too much on detours and talking heads. Luckily, Popstar pulls everything together in the home stretch, resulting in a pretty damn enjoyable flick that should hold up to repeat viewings (even if much of it will feel painfully dated within five years). Universal's Blu-ray package serves up a fantastic A/V presentation and loads of extras, mostly in the form of deleted scenes and bonus footage that fans will enjoy digging through. Highly Recommended.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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