This viewer is not a music person, such that I could talk for long periods of time about movies or TV but have little to say about music, but Popstar is satirizing something recognizable from headlines alone. It takes real life instances and then furthers their absurdity. Justin Bieber, the obvious inspiration for Connor, says Anne Frank would've been a fan of his if she had lived, so Connor goes to the actual Anne Frank house and uses her toilet as a goof. The hyper-masculinity of man-children who get their every need taken care of combines with the self-inflated, surface-level social awareness that accompanies so many artists, giving birth to a musical plea for gay marriage in which Connor has to constantly remind the viewer that he is not actually gay. All three Lonely Islanders are credited as writers, and they've surely been around many of the people they're poking fun at, including Justin Timberlake, who cameos as Connor's chef. It's a homage both piercing and sadly recognizable, even for the less-than casual consumer.
A Lonely Island written film should include original songs, something their otherwise solid Hot Rod was missing. Popstar is not missing that ingredient. Aside from the aforementioned ode to gay panic, there's a tribute to weird Spanish lisps in 'Ibitha,' the braggadocios "I'm So Humble,' and the catchy Da Vinci diss track, 'Mona Lisa,' among many others. Directed by Taccone and Schaffer, the songs are presented either in concert or with videos, all a reasonable facsimile to the real thing, despite lyrics that call Mona Lisa the original garbage pail kid. Since Connor and The Style Boyz are both, bafflingly, treated as musical pioneers and titans of the art form, real pioneers like Nas and Ringo Starr are pulled in for talking heads that praise them as such, which is promptly followed by a song solely dedicated to spewing out potential catchphrases. This format might be spoofing VH1-style programming, or it might be The Lonely Island writing themselves a script that calls for Simon Cowell to praise the music of their fake group, which was written and composed by the real them. Either way, the dissonance is hilarious.
For the central trio, this feels like an earnest depiction of The Lonely Islanders' friendship amidst wolf attacks and full frontal male nudity. Sandberg functions as the good-looking front man, Taccone as the earnest truth teller, and Schaffer as the introspective weirdo, perhaps not their actual dynamic, but an easily believable one in Popstar. Surrounding them are a wealth of funny comedians, actors, and SNL alums. Maya Rudolph's appliance executive and tour sponsor makes the biggest impression, giving her character the toadying quality of a salesman and the dismissiveness of someone who does not respect her customer. The only flubs in the cast are those actors wasted in a TMZ spoof, otherwise talented people like Will Arnett and Chelsea Paretti. These bits just aren't as funny and seem disconnected from the movie, either because TMZ is such low-hanging, repulsive fruit, or because Amy Schumer's show did this exact same bit one month earlier.
Popstar hits that Walk Hard sweet spot, a constantly funny musical that also contains listenable music. Between this, Hot Rod, and MacGruber, Popstar is their best work yet, infectious in its comedy and cutting in its satire of overproduced, overmarketed pop nonsense. If only the public would take notice of some of the most talented comedic filmmakers working today, maybe their movies wouldn't grace theaters so rarely. B+