Musical mockumentaries can often be hilarious. One has to look no further than Spinal Tap to see how funny it can be to blend music with comedy and shoot it like a documentary. However, it is a delicate balance between fun, smart jokes and perhaps going too far for a simple punchline. Today’s film is Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which has received a brand new steel book from the minds at Shout Factory. This 2016 film was considered a bomb at the box office, but it has found a home in disc and digital thanks to the gag-a-minute style of Andy Samberg and his supporting cast of musical celebrities and comedians. Let us take a look inside this limited edition and see if “Conner4Real” can take on a cult-like status with this film.
We open the story with Conner (played by Andy Samberg), who tells us about growing up and being dope. He then meets his two best friends, Owen (played by Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (played by Akiva Schaffer) who later go on to form the rapping group, Style Boyz. Their first single is the tune Karate Guy. But as they grew up, the group was not as strong as originally thought. So they broke up, with Lawrence quitting the business and becoming a farmer. Owen became a DJ and tagged along with Conner. Conner became “Conner4Real” and went solo to huge acclaim. Despite his antics and habit of ending up in the tabloids, his music gathers a ton of fans and fame.
We break into a concert scene with Conner4Real and even a hologram of Adam Levine. ConnQuest is the new album, and it drops in just two weeks. With thirty two people on the payroll (including a guy who will punch Conner in the nuts), he has a lot of people to answer for. This includes Owen who is now the DJ and tried to contribute to the second album, but Conner wasn’t having it and wrote everything himself. It also had one hundred producers. I am not sure that this is going to turn out well.
Not Gay with special guest star P!nk drops as the first single, and then we meet with Conner who is back at his mansion looking for reviews on the Internet. He starts with Pitchfork, who gives an overwhelmingly bad review. The Rolling Stones review reads pretty much the same way with a very unflattering review. Oh wait, here is a good review…from the Onion. Conner decides to call it a mixed bag and moves on to the release party.
In the meantime, we meet Lawrence who is working his farm as well as Conner’s girlfriend Ashley Wednesday (played by Imogen Poots), a British actress who is clearly with Conner for the publicity. As it turns out, most of the marketing will be with AquaSpin, who puts music in our everyday appliances like refrigerators and washers and dryers. The release party begins, and it simultaneously sets off a chain of blackouts across well most of the world. The people start revolting, and needless to say the sales are dismal for Conner’s record. With his career in a tailspin, his manager Harry (played by Tim Meadows) suggests an opening act to increase tour ticket sales. Will this idea save Conner’s career?
Probably not, but it sure is hilarious to watch. This film’s music is very much in the style of the Lonely Island (which is comprised of the three main stars in the movie) where their vulgar lyrics and funny situations make for a worthwhile listen. I personally have listened to their first two albums, Incredibad and Turtleneck & Chain and found this in the exact same vein. Add that in with tons of cameos from musicians (the Justin Timberlake cameo is wonderful) and various comedians, and it’s a great watch. The most admirable thing is that everybody and everything stays in on the joke. No matter how much chicanery is going on, they treat it as a serious watch, which is a credit to everybody on board.
But as much as it hits the ol’ funny bone, it also tends to go way overboard. Much like Lonely Island’s albums, it’s going to offend a lot of people. I’m not going to go into detail about some of the events, but the ever-present dick and fart jokes are way too prevalent. I understand that in this day and age, clean (and actually) funny jokes are hard to come by, but the movie is so littered with the obscene that I’m actually wondering how they ever put a green band trailer together. The other problem is that when everything is one obscenity after another, the joke blends together and feels repeated again and again until the last twenty minutes or so. The only reason the last twenty minutes are different is that the are clearly working for an ending and not just bouncing off ideas of how much Conner is an idiot and doesn’t know what he is doing.
The film is shown in a 2.40:1 widescreen picture. The video is pretty good in this film. Since it is shot in a documentary vibe with flashes of various performances from the concerts, one would probably not expect much in ways of presentation, but it really pops. Color is great, there is a lot of detail to be had, and the camera work was usually spot on. There is nothing wrong with flesh tones (which we tend to have plenty of, sometimes unfortunately) and nothing disappears or is muted in the dark scenes. It works very well and is at the tops for this genre of film.
The audio tracks are DTS HD 5.1 in English, French, Spanish and even a DVS track is included. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also provided. As one would expect, this sucker is loud, expansive, and will use all of your speakers much to your neighbors’ disapproval. Dialog is crystal clear, and surrounds are active even when sometimes they don’t need to be. The music sounds freaking fantastic. I don’t even think a 7.1 sound field or some upgrade to Atmos would have even done that much more to the presentation. Perhaps we could have more sound effects for the bug scene then; I’m not sure.
Deleted Scenes 43:30 : There are 23 different deleted scenes here. Basically a ton of unused footage. Included here are more bee jokes (which they should have included in the movie, honestly, because it was by far one of the best bits), several scenes with one of Conner’s assistants, Sarah (played by Ashley Moore) that her character was almost cut completely, and a whole bunch of mixed bag type gags which could have composed an entire second film practically.
Music Videos : Six different videos are collected here. Most are the performance type videos, but Equal Rights and Bin Laden actually fall into the “Music Video” category. (And are probably my favorites since I adore well done music videos) The included videos are I’m a Weirdo (1:54), Equal Rights (3:28), Mona Lisa (2:53), Bin Laden (2:42), F**k Off (2:31), and Legalize It (1:15) which is actually about crack, not weed like I thought going into it.
Gag Reel 3:25 : Some great hi jinx here involving the cast and its band of merry characters. It’s hard to believe that the gag reel is only three minutes long when there is so much footage that they didn’t use. I could have watched easily 10-15 minutes here.
Interview Outtakes 6:39 : Outtakes from the mock interviews that they did with the celebrities and the cast.
Bonus Footage 9:27 : We have more footage including Late Night with Seth Myers, radio show skits and even some skateboarding (why? Heck if I know, stop asking silly questions).
How to Donkey Roll 1:11 : If you were ever curious how to do some “Donkey Roll”.
Big Boy Freestyle 1:59 : Radio show skit, Conner is supposed to do some freestyle rapping but his approach doesn’t really lend itself to the theme.
Frog Jizz 0:42 : Some things really don’t need to be explained.
Shooting Hoops 0:58 : Nor this, but basically its Conner missing a ton of shots and then supposed to say “LeBron” and forgetting that line on the one shot he makes.
“Turn Up the Beef” Backstory 0:50 : Yeah, I’ve got nothing at this point. A mock commercial with a mock backstory, hilarity ensues.
Sex Tape 1:05 : More radio show, the joke is that the “Sex” Tape doesn’t really involve any funny business so to speak.
Fun at CMZ! 5:33 : More fun with Will Arnett and the gorgeous Chelsea Peretti and others in more footage of this TMZ spoof (which is so dead on its ridiculous). Five different shorts are included.
Feature Commentary w/ Directors/Co-Writers Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone and Co-Writer Andy Samberg : This includes the three principal creators and actors of the film talking about the movie. Except Jorma is talking on a phone (which sounds horrible), which means that Akiva & Andy are doing most of the work. By work, I mean they are just making jokes about a made up Gloom Glam and other “fun facts”. The only thing slightly interesting about this is that there was a real bee, which led to the joke being included. Thankfully they didn’t have to use a real flame thrower to get rid of it, though. They never really stop and talk about how they did certain shots or how they got ideas for various things. It’s just three guys palling around for the length of the film. Gets annoying quick.
This single disc presentation is housed in a lovely steel book from Shout Factory. I mean, it looks good, but it helps if you are in on the joke, too, since the scene depicted is from a very short joke in the film (sure, it shows up in the extras a few more times, but technically it’s a two-minute joke). That’s the same as making a steel book for the Matrix with the cat. Oh, wait…Best Buy did that with their 4K steel book. Anyway, it’s creative, but I do wonder if this is going to be a hard sell to even fans of the movie (who I’m sure already have their Blu-ray release from 2016).
I am still not sure if I get the entire joke of the film. Sure, it’s funny in parts, even spectacular but it also misfires a lot of the time. Thanks to its blatant vulgarity, offensive themes, unfunny sexual jokes, and egregious male nudity, it is easy to see why it had a difficult time at the box office. But I mentioned it is also spectacular, as it does plenty of things right and had me rolling a few times with the various songs and performances and of course that spot-on spoof of TMZ. It can even be touching near the end as the three Style Boyz finally come together to give their friendship another try.
The presentation of this package is top-notch, the video is very good, and the audio is near perfect. The extras are plentiful and provide enough footage to cut a second movie with scenes to spare. The steel book is a wonderful touch for the people who appreciate and love this film. It’s another fine effort from the people at Shout Factory and looks far better than a lot of the other limited editions I have seen in the marketplace (look no further than Disney’s lazy steel book art). If you are new to the film, you might want to catch it on digital or pick up a cheap Blu-ray copy before you spend the money for the limited edition. However, if you are already a fan, then for certain go ahead and grab this, as it is a great conversation starter and worth displaying. Sure, it’s the same disc, but how often do you get a steel book with a blowtorch and a bee on it? Recommended. Enjoy.