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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

"Ever since I was born, I was dope."

Such is Conner Friel's (not so) humble assessment of himself. The worldwide sensation—who goes by the moniker Conner4Real—is on top of the top of the pop world. And, as is often the case with such megawatt stars, he's invited a documentary crew to take a peek into his private life in the weeks leading up to the release of his highly anticipated second album, CONNQuest (and to join him on the requisite arena tour to support it).

But life in the rarified air at the top of the top of the pop world isn't always as effortless as it seems.

Conner's got to deal with his album's bad reviews (which Rolling Stone awards zero stars punctuated by an excrement emoji, for instance). Then there are the Behind the Music-style tensions between Conner and, well, just about everyone in his life. That includes his best friend and current DJ, Owen, as well as former bestie Lawrence, both of whom were once equal partners with him in the band Style Boyz that launched Conner's career. Meanwhile, Conner4Real's opening act, foul-mouthed rapper Hunter the Hungry, has unexpectedly eclipsed him on the charts. Conner's mother has run off as a groupie with Fall Out Boy. And his former girlfriend, Ashley Wednesday, has decided that she'd rather be with Seal.

Then there's all the other stuff.

Like, say, accidentally ending up naked on stage. And having his 20-year-old turtle, Maximus, suddenly croak. And feeling misunderstood when his pro-gay-marriage anthem "Equal Rights" gets panned, in part because Conner4Real repeatedly emphasizes that he's "not gay" throughout the song.

In short, being dope isn't always what it's cracked up to be.

Positive Elements

Popstar's story arc is a familiar one: An arrogant celebrity falls from grace but eventually realizes his own pride and narcissism have contributed to that downfall.

In Conner's case, that means apologizing to Lawrence for claiming credit for a huge hit that Conner didn't actually write. It means encouraging people to tell him the truth instead of telling him only what he wants to hear. "I need to find out who I can really trust," he says.

Ultimately, Conner relinquishes his drive to preserve his fame and focuses on his closest friendships instead. Looking back on his bad behavior, Conner says, "I feel like I could have handled myself better the last couple of months." Near the end of the film, Owen discovers that Conner's been reading a book titled How to Be a Better Friend.

Conner's parting wisdom includes the exhortation not to "lose yourself" or become a nasty person due to fame. "Be a good person," he encourages, "and the rest will fall into place." It's an earnestly sweet message at the end of a movie that's often anything but sweet.

Spiritual Content

Hunter tells Conner, "You're my idol. Right next to Jesus and Morgan Freeman." Conner paraphrases a verse from Psalm 23 in his memorial service for Maximus as bagpipes play "Amazing Grace" in the background; he also talks about Maximus going to "turtle heaven." One of Conner's songs encourages people to pray for gay couples because they're not able to marry. We hear references to a psychic and to someone who thinks she had a "previous life."

Sexual Content

An extraordinarily graphic scene involves a lingering camera shot on a man's fully exposed penis. A female fan bares her breasts.

Conner is concerned that a stunt onstage will result in having his "junk tangled." Elsewhere, a man is shown naked onstage with his groin exposed. Some women's outfits reveal cleavage.

One of Conner's songs is a pro-gay-marriage anthem called "Equal Rights," the video for which features gay couples getting married (as well as a cameo by P!nk). But Conner is equally passionate about proclaiming his heterosexual bona fides, and between lyrics advocating for every kind of sexual expression ("Sexual freedom for all"), he repeatedly shouts the phrase "not gay," as well as "I'm straight." After watching the video, former Beatle Ringo Starr is confused about why Conner's fighting for a cause he says has already been addressed. "Gay marriage, it's allowed now," Starr says. Earlier in his career, Conner wears jeans with an explicit reference to orgasm written on the front and an anti-gay slur on the back. Adam Levine makes an appearance as a hologram onstage at one of Conner's concerts, and at one point two projections of the Maroon 5 singer are shown close together in a sexually suggestive movement.

Conner posts a video to a social media channel showing him shirtless and referencing masturbation. Crude phrases he uses in that video become a viral internet meme. He brags of his concert performances, "My songs are love letters," then adds, "the stage is where we f---." The song "Bin Laden" jarringly mingles sex, violence and the f-word. Elsewhere, we hear that Lawrence "hooked up" with one of Conner's exes.

Violent Content

Conner's elaborate proposal to his girlfriend involves men holding a group of wolves on leashes … while pop-artist Seal sings. The animals don't care much for Seal's song, breaking loose and viciously mauling a number of people (including Seal, who ends up on a magazine cover with a bandage over one eye).

Conner gives his deceased turtle a Viking-style send off, floating the animal out into his pool on a raft, then shooting it with a flaming arrow to ignite the tiny pyre. We hear that after leaving Style Boyz, Lawrence went to Japan to "hunt dolphins." Conner's publicist tells him that Taylor Swift will be unable to perform at an awards show because she's been arrested for murder.

Other pratfall-style violence played for laughs includes Conner crashing an ATV, crashing a hoverboard and driving erratically in a golf cart. Owen falls down a flight of stairs, Hunter and Harry getting into a ridiculous fistfight, and Conner has a celebrity-meltdown dustup with Martin Sheen. One of Conner's entourage has the job of punching him in the crotch occasionally, ostensibly to keep him humble.

Crude or Profane Language

About 60 s-words and 80 f-words, including at least seven pairings of the latter with "mother." God's name is taken in vain seven or eight times, and Jesus' name is misused once. "A--," "h---" and "b--ch" are uttered five to seven times each. About 15 uses of "d--k," as well as five crude references to the female anatomy. The n-word is used three or four times. Twice we hear the word "retard" as a derogatory slur.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Multiple scenes involve drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. At his lowest point, Conner gets drunk by himself at his mother's house. We see empty bottles, and the next day Conner is passed out in the front yard.

We're also told Conner has two people on his staff exclusively devoted to his marijuana consumption, his "weed roller" and his "weed holder." Lawrence owns a massive marijuana farm in Colorado. We see huge quantities of the stuff in a barrel, and Conner, Owen and Lawrence get very high smoking it. Two scenes depict bongs.

We hear verbal references to crack, cocaine, Ecstasy and LSD. The last song playing in the film's end credits sarcastically promotes legalizing crack: "Legalize it," Conner sings. "Set people free/ … We should legalize crack/So that I can smoke it all."

Other Negative Elements

Maximus vomits repeatedly on Conner before dying. Birds repeatedly defecate on Lawrence, including in his mouth. Conner makes pancakes mingled with dog droppings as a test to see who will tell him the truth about how they really taste. Conner's publicist is aghast that he defecated at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Someone is shown (covering himself) sitting on a toilet. Conner's stage show includes one song where he sits on a toilet in a makeshift bathroom stall onstage.


This new, uh, popumentary is rightly being compared to the 1984 mock rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Just as Rob Reiner sarcastically skewered the burgeoning heavy metal genre back in the day, so Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (Samberg's music-meets-comedy co-conspirators in the group Lonely Island) do the same to today's pop stars.

Justin Bieber's erratic exploits seem very much in the crosshairs here, from ridiculous relationships with pets to bad things happening at Anne Frank's house. But on a broader level, the movie also pokes satirical fun at pop icons (many of whom are game to play along in cameos) and their excesses in general.

Popstar wittily—but often very crudely—deconstructs the self-absorbed narcissism that traps ego-driven stars in a bubble world of their own creating. Subtle inside jokes are just as frequent as over-the-top gags for those paying close attention. Justin Timberlake plays Conner's personal chef, for example, and the way he takes delight in cutting up carrots eight different ways to please his boss is innocuously funny stuff.

But subtlety is hardly the only driver of a movie like this one. Continually crude commentary gets paired with explicit visuals—such as a lengthy scene focused on a man's privates—in the name of shock comedy.

It's all fine and well and good to say that such severe vulgarity isn't necessary for comedians as incisive as Andy Samberg and Co. can be at times. Unfortunately, the Saturday Night Live alum and his pop-star-poking co-conspirators just can't resist the naughty urge to push the envelope as far as the R-rating will let them go in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

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Plot Summary

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Andy Samberg as Conner Friel; Akiva Schaffer as Lawrence; Jorma Taccone as Owen; Sarah Silverman as Paula Klein; Tim Meadows as Harry; Imogen Poots as Ashley Wednesday; Chris Redd as Hunter the Hungry; James Buckley as Sponge; Bill Hader ad Zippy; Justin Timberlake as Tyrus Quash; Joan Cusack as Tilly; Maya Rudolph as Deborah; Will Arnett as CMZ Paparazzo; Martin Sheen as Himself; Adam Levine as Himself; Mariah Carey as Herself; Snoop Dogg as Himself; Simon Cowell as Himself; Carrie Underwood as Herself; Usher as Himself; DJ Khaled as Himself; Seal as Himself; P!nk as Herself; Questlove as Himself; Jimmy Fallon as Himself; Danger Mouse as Himself; Nas as Himself; RZA as Himself; Ringo Starr as Himself; A$AP Rocky as Himself; T.I. as Himself; Pharrell Williams as Himself


Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

June 3, 2016

On Video

September 13, 2016

Year Published



Adam R. Holz

Content Caution

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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