In the trailer for Justin Bieber's 2011 film, Never Say Never, a 16-year-old Bieber stands center stage at Madison Square Garden and looks out at his thousands of screaming fans. The stage is brilliantly lit and he's wearing purple. He yells out to the audience, "There's going to be times when people tell you that you can't live your dreams. And this what I tell them: 'Never. Say. Never!'" For anyone who hasn't seen the instant popumentary classic that is Never Say Never, it goes deep into the trials and tribulations of a young Bieber as he attempts to forge his career from Canadian YouTuber to shaggy-haired pop star. It details his drive to be recognized not only as talented, but also extremely dedicated to his fans. And his humility. Looking back now, it almost seems like it was meant to be a spoof itself. But alas, it was a real documentary and powerful publicity move (it grossed $99 million worldwide.) Now, we have Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, thanks to the guys behind The Lonely Island — Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. The comedy, out in theaters June 3, takes the premise of past (and present) concert documentaries and pushes it to the extreme. The film is Never Say Never meets This Is Spinal Tap meets VH1's (amazing series, may it rest in peace) Behind The Music. It's funny, it's crude, it's over-the-top, it's basically an SNL skit that goes on for nearly two hours.
In Popstar, Samberg plays Conner4Real, a.k.a. fake Bieber at age 29. Conner and his two best friends, Owen (Taccone) and Lawrence (Schaffer), rose to fame as members of The Style Boyz. Their group and attire is reminiscent of not only a pubescent Bieber, but also the '90s duo Kris Kross, consisting of Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and “Daddy Mac.” The two were the youngest rap duo to gain success, at the ages of 11 and 12, with their hit single, “Jump.” In the film, each member also had their own nickname — Conner as "Kid Conner," Owen as "Kid Brain," and Lawrence as "Kid Contact." The three rose to stardom with their breakout hit, “The Donkey Roll,” featuring a new dance move called, yes, The Donkey Roll. They were just three simple Sacramento, CA, nerds with a dream and each other. That is, until Conner nabs his breakout moment (with Emma Stone playing a very Katy Perry-esque singer) and disbands from The Style Boyz to become a solo artist — Conner4Real. Conner wins a "Poppy" for a rap verse (which consisted of only catchphrases), which is basically the equivalent of an MTV Video Music Award. In his acceptance speech, Conner thanks himself, and then himself again, accurately embodying the truly narcissistic and egotistical pop stars that we all know and still love. This creates a grudge between Lawrence (who actually wrote the verse) and Conner that goes on for nearly a decade. It's addressed at the climax of the movie. Predictably, things don't work out as planned. We see Conner's arrogant selfishness, combined with his relentless naiveté, lead to his downfall. Conner's attitude is reminiscent of what I like to call "Deposition Bieber," one of entitlement and frustration. His sophomore album flops, despite the near-constant assistance from the "32 people on his personal payroll," which includes Justin Timberlake as his personal chef, Sarah Silverman as his publicist, Tim Meadows as his manager, and Joan Cusack as his mother. Bieber himself had his own notorious entourage of confidantes including Usher, his mentor; Scooter Braun, his manager; and Ryan Good, his road manager, a.k.a. swagger coach. The film also addresses the darker side of fame, but still keeps it lighthearted. Conner can’t tell who of his friends are or who to trust, a qualm that many child stars face. He resorts to a crude experiment to see which friends are just there to fluff his ego and which have his best interests at heart. He serves them pancakes made with dog poop from his yard and waits to see who admits the dish taste like actual shit. Only one person is truthful with him. The only other creature that Conner has to trust when he's at his lowest is Maximus, his pet turtle. The inclusion of an animal is no doubt another dig at Bieber and his own pet drama. There is, of course, an abundance of dude humor à la Judd Apatow, who produced the film, sprinkled throughout. That includes a NSFW scene or two; one, in particular, involving Conner signing a fan's penis. Will it make you laugh? Absolutely. Will it make you cringe? Probably. Will it make you want to download a few of the parody songs? Maybe. Will even Bieber, the butt of most of the jokes, think it's funny? Definitely.