Even if you don’t know exactly who he is or what he does, the name Justin Bieber can’t have escaped your notice. Justin Bieber is everywhere: his YouTube videos are the most-watched (surpassing even Lady Ga Ga), he’s regularly trending on Twitter and has graced the covers of countless magazines. And as if you haven’t had enough of the pint-sized pop star, he’s now taken on the world of cinema with Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a 3-D concert tour documentary.
I imagine that if I were a Belieber, I would have found the film deeply enlightening, utterly fascinating and the closest I ever would come to my diminutive idol. Doubtless, I would have wailed ‘Please say you’ll never ever stop singing, Justin’. It would give me a case of, as Beliebers are wont to say, Bieber Fever.
Unfortunately, I have not yet been swept up by the phenomenon that is Bieber. For me, and probably every other adult who went to see the film, it was a chance to discover how such a hugely successful 16-year-old star was born, or created, in such a short space of time.
The film begins with footage of Bieber’s early YouTube videos, which, if you don’t know, went viral and caught the eye of a record company. From there the film builds up to Bieber’s now legendary (sorry, but yes it was) Madison Square Garden concert, and is filled with various home videos and performances from his 2010 My World Tour. There are also interviews from those around him – his family, friends, those on tour with him and a selection of devoted fans.
Director Jon Chu, the man behind Step Up 3D, has done a nice job on the film. Chu has made the most out of the 3D technology; he understands how to make dance and movement look good on the screen, and how to make it engage the viewer. However Never Say Never doesn’t quite feel like a music documentary. In fact, it seems more like a 90-minute advertisement for the ‘Baby’ singer. Not only is it not quite the exposé I was hoping for, it starts to feel like a sugar-coated (and sugar-centred) Bieber Fest for fans, which is unlikely to convert those lost souls wandering in a JB-less wilderness.
Saying that though, you can’t deny that Bieber comes across as a nice kid. It would be hard not to think that though considering there is compliment after compliment sycophantically sprinkled throughout the film.
Never Say Never is an example of how the music industry works in this day and age. He didn’t graduate from a popular Disney show or a talent show like X-factor. He isn’t from an overbearing family, at least as far as the film shows us. His single mother gently encourages her son who has, even if you don’t like it, an undeniable musical talent. And more than that, he has star quality. I suppose he has the x-factor, which Cheryl, Simon, Danni and Louis are so desperate to find year after year. The kid worked hard and boy has it paid off.
Never Say Never is a feel-good film showing how Bieber came from nothing. He’s a small town boy… blah blah blah… and is now playing sell out shows at Madison Square Garden. All this does get you wondering however – it’s all very well and good when someone achieves their dreams, but it is hard to watch without wondering about the future.
At 16, JBiebz is even more successful than Britney Spears at a similar age, with squillions in the bank and millions of young girls idolising him, plus another couple of million or so after this film. We all know what happened to Britney, and this film made me very anxious for his well-being if the star-maker machinery keeps on pushing him.
At one point, just before the big show, we see Bieber clearly struggling. His vocal coach Mama Jan Smith turns to him and says “Do you want to stay in the game, or do you want to go back to Canada?” One might ask, ‘What’s wrong with Canada?’, but really, does any 16-year-old need to hear this? His team and mum pray with him before each show, and again over food, they seem to want to keep him humble while pushing him to succeed and earn them their daily bread. It all seems like an impossibility.
The film is marketed as a true underdog story, where we learn that anything is possible. But at heart Never Say Never is really a story of a young boy who is thrust into the spotlight and then gets taken along for a ride he has little control of. It is a ride that will, at some point, come to the end of the road.
Buy Justin Bieber: Never Say Never on DVD on Amazon now.