Maybe every generation gets the Spinal Tap it deserves. More than 30 years ago, Rob Reiner gave us This Is Spinal Tap, the music-mockumentary that spoofed the excesses of the age of hair metal. Now the Lonely Island bring us Popstar, a music-mockumentary that sets its sights on l’age d’Bieber.
All three members of the comedy music group were heavily involved in the making of the movie—the trio wrote the screenplay together, while members Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone are credited as the directors. But the man wearing the carefully coiffed ’do of the Bieber-style heartthrob is SNL alum Andy Samberg. And while surely other pop stars will come in for some ribbing, Bieber is pretty clearly the top target: Even the subtitle of the movie, Never Stop Never Stopping, is a clear allusion to Bieber’s 2011 3-D concert doc Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.
The Lonely Island’s parodies have always walked a fine line between astute (“I’m on a Boat”) and fogeyish, and there’s a risk here of punching down. After all, in some ways Bieber beat them to it: He has spent most of the last year making fun of himself, from his March 2015 Comedy Central Roast to his cameo last month in Zoolander 2.
But the pop-idoldom of the Biebs is still rich territory with plenty of comedy left to mine, and the trailer finds fresher approaches when it lands on gags like a pop star bowing in front of million-dollar lights that blare the word “HUMBLE” (a pretty on-target spoof of Bieber’s tearful past 12 months).
And then there’s the cast, a mix of SNL alums (Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader) and bona fide music industry stars (Snoop Dogg, Usher, Carrie Underwood, DJ Khaled, Simon Cowell, a hologram Adam Levine, and, in a blue wig, Samberg’s wife Joanna Newsom). With that kind of talent involved, I won’t be surprised if this movie earns its place beside Spinal Tap. I also won’t be surprised if it features a very “HUMBLE” cameo from Bieber.