Now, like Jane Goodall and the chimps, I had to fully immerse myself in Bieber fandamonium in order to better understand the appeal of the 16-year-old Canadian pop sensation and write a fair and unbiased review. I went opening night and saw it in 3-D, surrounded by giggly tween girls and their moms (and one middle-aged man sitting by himself in the front row).
And while I begged and pleaded with my so-called “friends” to go with me, not one of them agreed; I couldn’t even bribe them by offering to buy their ticket and a $10 tub of crappy popcorn. So I went all by my lonesies, bought my ticket, settled into my seat near the back, hoped no one recognized me, and waited for the screaming to begin.
I didn’t have to wait long.
Once the lights dimmed, there was a palpable excitement that filled the theater as the girls waited for their first glimpse of the social networking sensation. I also overheard one of their mom’s let it slip, “Oh goody, it’s starting,” without even trying to hide her sarcasm.
The film opens on a computer screen with someone checking their email and watching YouTube videos. First, “Sneezing Panda,” then “Twin Babies Laughing,” “Surprised Kitty,” and a couple others before we finally get to a 12-year-old Bieber singing a cover of Chris Brown’s “With You.”
At the mere sight of him, high-pitched squeals rang throughout the theater. Next, came a montage of baby photos and home movies which lead to a round of awwwwws all around the room. After that were clips of fan interviews.
One fan proudly announces that she knows everything about Bieber, including his birthday, March 1, 1994 at 12:56 in the morning, which caused a girl in my audience, who sounded like she was all ready fighting back sobs, to announce, “Ohmigod, she’s crazy!”
Oh, now a shot of him topless. More screaming commences.
The movie cuts back and forth between interviews with his family and management team, concert performances, and backstage footage. It’s all aimed at painting a portrait of a young boy, from humble beginnings, with an exceptional talent, just following his dream.
Genevieve Koski, of A.V. Club, described the documentary as, “essentially a propaganda film, indoctrinating teens and skeptical parents into the Bieber Army one adorable baby photo and pandering fan montage at a time.”
Everything was all a little bit too polished, too perfect. And I don’t feel like I got to know anything more about Bieber than I did before. Except that he’s Canadian and he’s not above eating a doughnut he pulled out of the garbage.
A large portion of the film is interviews with his management team Koski critiques, “Although he’s in nearly every frame, Bieber is an elusive figure in the movie. He never engages with it, leaving his various handlers to craft his legend.”
When we aren’t listening to the praise from the people whose bills Bieber pays, we get shots of crying admirers who swear they’re going to be Mrs. Beiber one day. Mike Hale, of the New York Times, writes that “the most compelling visual in this story is all those screaming girls.”
I guess I can’t judge those girls on screen, or the ones in my audience, too harshly. It was just over a decade ago that I pledged my undying devotion to another Justin. (But I never cried or had ludicrous delusions about our wedded bliss.) Do you think this is how New Kids on the Block fans felt when ‘N Sync first arrived? I do know that I’ve never felt so old as when a concert promoter compares Bieber to the Backstreet Boys in one scene and the girl next to me asked her mom who the Backstreet Boys were.
Maybe if I liked Justin Bieber’s music, or thought he was even a little bit cute, or was a 13-year-old girl I would have liked “Never Say Never.” But I don’t, and I’m not, so I didn’t. Even as a movie it didn’t hold my attention. I was much more entertained by the singing and dancing of the girls in the row ahead of me than the singing (if that’s what you want to call it) and dancing on screen.
If you do know a
Belieber (a.k.a. a Bieber fan) and get dragged to see this, I’m sorry. But hey, it could always be worse, you could be watching Hannah … oops, I forgot, Miley Cyrus does have a cameo. You’re doomed.
- What’s A Justin Bieber? Here’s Your Guide (huffingtonpost.com)
- Justin Bieber thinks his movie isn’t just for the girls (hollywoodnews.com)
- ‘Never Say’ Justin Bieber’s Not An Awesome Package (npr.org)
- Justin Bieber compares well to past teen idols (calgaryherald.com)
- Does Justin Bieber think he’s his generation’s Kurt Cobain? (washingtonpost.com)
- The Bieber: Ju$tin invade$ the $ilver $creen in Never $ay Never (eugeneweekly.com)