The Style Boyz were one of the most popular rap groups around, selling millions of albums and gathering a following of countless fans across the globe, but all was not well within their camp, and the seeds of their implosion were sown when the leader, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), won a Poppy award for writing a verse in a huge song that his cohort Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) claimed was all his own work. This led to the two fighting on stage, and Lawrence heading off to the countryside to begin again as a farmer, while Conner and the other part of the trio, Owen (Jorma Taccone), to remain together and create music themselves, with Conner fronting Owen's tunes. His first solo album sold four million copies, so surely the follow up will do the same?
Lonely Island, a comedy trio in a sort of similar way to their fictional counterparts were a rap group, only far more self-aware, specialised in parody songs, so it seemed the obvious move for them to create a feature length showcase for those ditties, and Popstar, with its nonsensical title reminiscent of Spinal Tap's Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight, was part of a long and distinguished line of comedians making fun of the music industry while perhaps secretly wishing they could enjoy a hit song in their own right. That desire to be regarded as legitimate musicians even when the material was purposefully absurd had conjured up a lot of high quality spoofs from The Rutles to Fear of a Black Hat, and this could hold up its head among those.
This is Spinal Tap was the big daddy in the genre, maybe more than the Eric Idle and Neil Innes' trendsetting and rule establishing Beatles send up, and it was true to observe that while talented, Lonely Island remained in the shadow of that, but a whole lot of comedy did, so there was no shame in it. What mattered was whether it was funny or not, and Popstar assuredly was, taking the twenty-first century music landscape and asking us to think, wait a minute, this is ridiculous, isn't it? Who are these people anyway? Or going as far as, why should we be listening to these stars at all when they really don't know any more than we do? That might have been over the mark for many fans, which was why this disappointed at the box office.
But don't listen to those who say it wasn't entertaining, this may have been a shade generic and obvious in its targets, but a lot of the industry was ripe for lampooning, in fact you could say it pretty much all was, much as Rhys Thomas and Simon Day's Brain Pern series of television parodies were making merciless fun of the rock dinosaurs around the same time in Britain. This was the American take, as you would be able to identify the targets as they flew by from Macklemore to Justin Bieber, and it appeared a lot of them were in on the joke hence them showing up in interview clips to prove they had a sense of humour (Justin was only seen in archive bits, however). It added authenticity to a film that resembled one of those reality TV programmes where a camera crew followed a star around in the hope they would do something interesting.
And if they didn't do something interesting, then just manufacture a few incidents and nobody really cared as long as they got their chewing gum for the eyeballs. There was no hint that anything Conner did here was not his personal experiences, be that proposing to his girlfriend (Imogen Poots) but asking the media to record the event (accompanied by Seal, singing, and some unruly wolves) or through convoluted reasons making the world believe he had no genitals when a quick costume change on stage went horribly wrong. There was plenty here that was genuinely hilarious, not consistently all the way through, but the high points were very strong indeed, with barbs aimed at the crass nature of many of the most popular artistes and how the crasser they were the more the audience lapped it up. Maybe there was a snobbery here that the creators would not likely admit to - a lot of this is basically summed up as "who are these idiots?!" - but the theme of friends breaking up and reuniting held together the jokes with precisely the contrived uplift of many an official documentary, again spot on for the laughs.