The ‘mockumentary’ died a long time ago, after a half decade of Borat knock-offs eventually began to bore audiences. But Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island pals have never been adverse to embracing tired formula and cliché, and hence they gift us with this documentary-style tale of an obnoxious pop singer called Conner4Real and the trials and tribulations of his latest album release and world tour.
Samberg plays Conner as Bieber on a sugar high, though his admittedly enjoyable songs- with lyrics such as “Mona Lisa, you’re an overrated piece of shit” and “This girl requested intercourse to bring her to climax with the clinical efficiency of the assassination of Bin Laden” are more in the vein of early Timberlake mixed with some spunky 90s Europop. When he’s on stage, at the centre of a reasonably amusing musical carnival, the film is quite entertaining indeed. Off it, as we’re given insight into Conner’s feud with a former Style Boyz bandmate, the comedy often strays a little too SNL and begins feeling cheap. There are, nonetheless, witty encounters with Sarah Silverman as Conner’s publicist (“You look like Matthew Modine had a peanut allergy. You look like Nazi propaganda”) and surprisingly smart cameos from Seal and Michael Bolton. The talking heads that introduce the film, including Ringo Starr and Simon Cowell, are used less frequently as Conner’s story progresses, which works in favour of the film feeling less televisual and more worthy of being screened in a cinema.
Despite the at-times overwhelming obnoxiousness of its central character, Popstar is as accurate a cinematic send-up of this decade’s musical culture as we’ve seen for some years.