I don’t know about you, but one the highlights of my weekends during middle and high school was seeing the latest ‘Digital Short’ created by The Lonely Island (the comedy trio comprised of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) on Saturday Night Live. Their dumb (yet somehow smart) humor mixed with their so-bad-it’s-good rap style made nearly every TLI sketch memorable.
Although they’ve moved on from SNL since 2012, it is clear they’ve held on to their roots–and refuse to let go. The new movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, produced by and starring the TLI trio, is basically a ‘Digital Short’ that has been stretched into a full-length mockumentary.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: TLI’s first feature film, Hot Rod (2007), starring Samberg and Taccone and directed by Schaffer, was a box office flop with too few quality jokes to save its reputation. Wouldn’t another film by the same guys bomb as well?
My answer for you: only if you hate fun… and ‘Digital Short’ humor. So, here are five reasons why you will probably enjoy TLI’s latest film.
1.The classic TLI satire we’ve missed since their time on SNL
It wouldn’t surprise me if Popstar was conceived out of a compilation of silly sketch ideas and satirical jokes that Schaffer, Samberg and Taccone built up over the years after they left their SNL platform. Although you can still see Samberg in action on Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the humor is not quite the same as having the three buddies working together on a production.
What’s awesome about the TLI guys being in the same room (or, in this case, movie) together is that they build off each other’s jokes. For example, I highly recommend checking out the video compilation of interviews they may or may not have ruined by shamelessly mentioning Jimmy Fallon, which Samberg shared on The Tonight Show last month.
2. The allusions to popular culture
This movie is shot in the style of a mockumentary, where Schaffer’s, Samberg’s and Taccone’s characters formed the rap trio, “Style Boyz,” in their early years of fame, a nod to the popularity of boy bands in music culture (Beastie Boys, N’SYNC, One Direction–to name a few). Like all worthy boy bands, the Style Boyz have a dramatic break-up when one member, Samberg’s character Conner, catapults into fame after being featured on an award-winning song and becomes Conner4Real.
The film also dives into the struggle for ratings and publicity in the music industry. When sales drop for Conner’s new album, he and his crew desperately make a sponsorship deal with a home appliance manufacturer–a publicity stunt that ends in mass annoyance for customers, much like the surprise U2 album iTunes put on everyone’s iPhone back in September 2014.
The list goes on as the cameramen follow Conner’s life as a dimwitted and entitled rap star. Samberg’s character is the poster child for conceited pop stars, complete with his Bieber-like vanity (Never Stop Never Stopping ≠ Never Say Never?) and a crew of yes-men producers and stagehands.
3. The plethora of awesome celebrity cameos
Sometimes cramming a ton of celebrities into one film as an obvious publicity stunt means the film will be a disaster. This was not the case.
Where to start? You’ve got retired SNL favorites, a handful of past SNL hosts and guests and a ton of people who are actually in the music industry and lend themselves as music experts.
Also, as a huge TLI fan, I have to acknowledge the adorable appearances of Schaffer’s and Samberg’s wives, Liz Cackowski and Joanna Newsom, respectively (Taccone’s wife, Marielle Heller, worked behind-the-scenes as a crew member).
Whew! That’s a lot of cameos.
4. The highly ridiculous (yet well-produced) fake rap songs
Of course, if it’s truly a TLI production, it must be sprinkled with extravagant yet silly “rap” music videos. The boys pulled out all the stops by recording a full-length soundtrack album to accompany their comeback film.
The best songs off this soundtrack, sadly, will not become as big of hits as they would have had they been featured on SNL, but they’re still worth checking out: “I’m So Humble” ft. Adam Levine, “Things In My Jeep” ft. Linkin Park, “Equal Rights” ft. Pink and, my personal favorite, “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song).”
5. The references to TLI’s history
Finally, if you’re a die-hard Lonely Island fan like me, you will appreciate the parallels between the “Popstar” storyline and the history of how TLI came to be.
Schaffer, Samberg and Taccone were buddies who met in high school and regrouped after college. They made a bunch of dumb-comedy videos before Youtube even existed and called themselves The Lonely Island. After writing for the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, Jimmy Fallon recommended them to SNL creator Lorne Michaels, who hired all three as writers and Samberg as a featured member.
The storyline in the movie is quite similar, with the exception of the trio’s break-up after Conner’s disproportionate success. In real life, although Samberg has become much more famous due to his initial SNL screen time and the media often neglects to credit Schaffer and Taccone for their contributions, the trio has stayed together–and they’ve continued to put out music (and movies!) even after their SNL stint was over.
And that’s why, if you haven’t already, you should give Popstar a try. Or, if you’re not in the mood for a full-length film, treat yourself to a re-watch of their ‘Digital Short’ classics!