Rating: 2 stars out of 5
A flurry of make-up artistes and stylists do final checks in the mirror to make sure every strand of that perfect mane is in place. Outside, the crowd’s going wild. He finally makes a dramatic entrance on the glittery stage, flanked by a bevy of hip-hop dancers, decked out in glamorous matching track suits and limited edition sneakers. Girls begin to cry, some feel the strong urge to faint. As he starts spouting the first verse of his worldwide hit song “Baby”, the screams escalate to uniform, frenzied shrieks, completely enveloping the live band and drowning out his auto-tuned vocals.
Brace yourself for Bieber Fever.
A few years ago The Jonas Brothers, a trio of pre-pubescent males with similar floppy hairdos, made a comparable concert movie documenting their road to fame (also in 3D of course, because ooh, it feels like Joe Jonas is sitting right next to you!). While the film exemplified the intensity of their hysterical fan base, it was markedly made in a greater tongue-in-cheek way. The boys seemed to embrace their ephemeral status, with a blithe acknowledgment that they’d be quickly replaced by the next flavour of the week.
17-year-old, Canadian-bred Justin Bieber however, has been assembled and polished up a lot more convincingly than anything from the House of Mouse, and Never Say Never is simply a vainglorious attempt at milking a very lucrative cash cow. Bieber fans will lap up this fare in a jiffy, as will they find great joy in reminiscing his earlier life told in flashbacks of home-made videos, interspersed with prolonged concert footage, all leading up to his highly anticipated show at Madison Square Garden. Naturally, a crisis had to be concocted to provide some kind of structure to the narrative: Oh no Bieber has a bad throat…can the show still go on? There’s also a “reach for the stars” mantra which cheerfully runs on loop throughout the film, because anything is possible as long as your Mom is shrewd enough to upload countless videos on YouTube to catch the attention of a music marketing executive, who’d then successfully pitch you to famed singers/producers.
Ironically amidst Step Up series director, Jon Chu’s relentless efforts at glossing things up, the best moments of the film come through via more organic snippets; hand-held recordings of a gap-toothed kid in dorky-looking oversized sweaters busking on the sidewalk, Bieber wolfing down pizza, mucking around with his mates and introducing his house pets. There’s no disputing the boy has talent, until you watch him gleefully pressing a shaver to his smooth, obviously beard-free face and you realize this is a child that’s growing up too fast. “You can edit this right?” he not-so-innocently asks the production crew, as the camera-man captures him missing a basketball shot. And again, it hits you that Bieber is probably experiencing more of the fame game than he can handle.
While The Jonas Brothers’ movie was a kind of greatest hits tribute as they made their bow out, Paramount’s Never Say Never release arrives at the height of Bieber Fever, and comes across like a rather frightening and sinister contribution to his escalating popularity--fans are repeatedly reminded not to listen to the naysayers, because this is after all a celebration of unconditional idol worship.
Beckii C is a former film production tyrant who also happens to be an insatiable movie addict. When not engaged in spirited debate, she can be found scouring the town for perfect vintage fashion and whispering at small animals. Her guilty pleasures include listening to bands who can't play their own instruments and devouring cream puffs.