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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Review

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The life of superstar musician Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) appears to be a charmed one, filled with groupies, screaming crowds and sacks of cash. But trouble is on the horizon in the form of a scheming rapper (Chris Redd), a disastrous merchandise deal and a swarm of killer bees.

★★★★

The spirit of This Is Spinal Tap looms large over the latest comedy from the Lonely Island crew. Like Rob Reiner’s masterpiece, it’s a mockumentary following three likeable idiots as they navigate the choppy waters of the music biz. There is even an update of Tap’s ‘Shit Sandwich’ scene, as Conner4Real (Andy Samberg) checks out reviews of his new album: rather than a star rating, Rolling Stone awards it the poop emoji.

Happily, rather than coming off as a pale imitation, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping squeezes laughs out of its tale like juice from a plum. If the music industry was silly back in the ’80s, it’s really daft now, and Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer gleefully go to town sending up its absurdities. Conner4Real is an ear-studded jackass, whose humongous entourage includes an eyebrow specialist, a scarf caddy and a guy who punches him in the nuts to remind him where he came from.

Rather than coming off as a pale imitation, Popstar squeezes laughs out of its tale like juice from a plum.

He has an army of personalised holograms that caper around the stage. He is a narcissist who uploads daily videos to YouTube, and who forces his best friend Owen (Jorma Taccone) to wear a deadmau5-like helmet that emits a terrifying laser beam. There is no length he will not go to get attention — a trait that is consistently hilarious — and, given Miley’s twerking and Kanye’s tweet-based rants, all too plausible today.

Hot Rod, the same team’s film about a wannabe Evel Knievel, was at times hysterical, but lumbered with a weak narrative. Popstar’s set-up is simpler and more effective. It turns out Conner4Real used to be just Conner, a decent guy who formed a boy band with Owen and his other buddy Lawrence (Schaffer). When he got a taste of fame, he became a monster: Owen became his DJ-slave and Lawrence retired to a farm to whittle woodcarvings.

The story, as Owen attempts to reunite The Style Boyz, is surprisingly sweet and engaging. It helps that there are inspired cameos peppered throughout, from the worlds of music (Arcade Fire, Justin Timberlake, Seal) and comedy (Will Forte, Bill Hader) or both (Weird Al Yankovic). There is also a penis that, if reports can be believed, belongs to an A-list director.

This Is Spinal Tap, of course, was pinned around several gloriously bad songs, lampooning different genres of music. And Lonely Island certainly know their way around a big juicy hook, as anyone who’s watched their Saturday Night Live videos can attest. Highlights here include Finest Girl, a sex jam with relentless references to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, and Equal Rights, a paean to gay marriage filled with assurances that the singer is straight. The tunes in Popstar are simultaneously whip-smart and stupendously dumb. Derek Smalls would approve.

An absolute blast, with a frenetic strike-rate and songs that will worm their way into your ears for days. Like Conner, this comedy’s for real.