Popstar, the new film by the comedy trio Lonely Island, wont’ make much money. It won’t be in theaters for long, has zero chance of winning awards, and I’ll bet you’ll never see it, at least on purpose. But as Teresa Giudice is my witness, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is the greatest mockumentary about our nation’s vapid obsession with fame for fame’s sake ever made, eighty-six minutes of inappropriate songs, celebrity cameos, turtle funerals and Michael Bolton. I implore you to see it – my son and I were two of seven people in the theater last Sunday, so there are plenty of tickets left!
Andy Samberg is Connor4Real, a dim yet enthusiastic popstar whose rapid ascent to fame is followed by an equally speedy decline. After leaving his best friends and their rap group, Style Boyz, behind to chase solo success, Connor’s first album, Thriller Also, goes platinum. But his follow-up effort is a dud, and after hitting rock bottom, Connor slowly pieces things back together through horse-drawing therapy and his former bandmates, although his mom appears to be a lost cause, as is Seal, although he has angry wolves to blame – it’s a long story. With Taylor Swift’s arrest for murder, Connor finds the opportunity for redemption. The Donkey Roll makes a comeback, the caterer dons a fish costume and everyone except Seal goes home happy.
Popstar is not high art – the Citizen Kane of mockumentaries it’s not – it’s not even The Amazing Mr. Limpet of pretend documentaries, but it’s good enough to keep you entertained and serves as a reminder that we have no one to blame for the Real Housewives of Kenosha, Justin Bieber and TMZ except ourselves. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is worth seeing – consider it a reminder that sometimes a good book is the best solution for quality entertainment.
In the spirit of equally fantastic mockumentaries, here are a few worth watching:
This is Spinal Tap (1984) – this remains the standard by which all mockumentaries are judged, and one of the top five funniest films of all time. The dialogue has worked its way into our culture (“This one goes to 11”), and the film helped launch a series of almost as equally great films from Christopher Guest and his kooky pals, like Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind. I’ve seen Spinal Tap at least 75 times from start to finish, and it never gets old. Just remember that a cricket bat can be both totemistic and rather handy in the topsy-turvy world of rock and roll.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) – a documentary film crew follows three New Zealand vampires for a year as they try living together without driving each other batty. Jermaine Clement, from the landmark HBO comedy series, “Flight of the Conchords,” portrays Vlad the Vampire, and he and his cohorts battle the modern world and a murderous but polite gang of werewolves (“Remember – we’re werewolves, not swearwolves”). This movie is brilliant – the best vampire documentary you’ll ever see.
Real Life (1979) – comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks plays himself making a documentary about an ordinary family in Phoenix, and he manages to put himself the center of every scene. Between the crew wearing space-age camera helmets on their heads to the veterinarian dad, played by Charles Grodin, losing a rather large patient on the operating table to Brooks dressed as a clown as he plumbs the depths of a nervous breakdown, Real Life is priceless comedy. The statement uttered near the end, “Reality sucks – the audience loves fake,” captures the essence of this late ‘70’s masterpiece.
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) – If you watch only one scene in this film, catch the moment when the bear greets the children hoping for ice cream. Or the scene when Borat’s producer runs through a crowded hotel in his birthday suit or when Borat sings the national anthem at a rodeo or when he takes driving lessons or . . . Good lord this film is insane.
Documentary Now! (2015) - SNL alums Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers created a TV series both mocking and paying homage to legendary documentaries. Watch Hader and Armisen as the two old women in “Sandy Passage,” based on the famous documentary Grey Gardens, and witness things go terribly wrong for the film crew. The episode spoofing the in-your-face style of Vice’s HBO documentaries, called “The Search for El Chingon,” does not have a happy ending but is riveting nonetheless.