Not one for non-bieberlever's
As you may have deduced from the title, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is a biopic of 16-year-old popstar Justin Bieber. It’s in 3D too, meaning that, unless you’re mentor Usher/mummy Bieber, you’re closer to the young poplet than you’ll most likely ever be again. Of course, how much of a story a person has to tell after 16 years is debatable – my movie wouldn’t have consisted of much more than endless scenes of an acne plagued youth hunched in a bedroom playing Streetfighter 2. Yet Bieber is no ordinary 16-year-old. Come to think of it, there’s an argument that he’s not really a person either.
Justin Bieber is a sensation. This, his debut big screen appearance, is reported to have grossed $30.3 on its opening weekend, almost drawing levelling with Miley Cyrus’s 2008 3D concert film Best Of Both Worlds, the current record holder for a debuting music documentary. In its wake quivers Michael Jackson’s This Is It and the Jonas Brother’s The 3D Concert Experience. His is the story of an embryonic idea, found on Youtube just three years ago by US talent manager Scooter Braun, polished by the aforementioned Usher, and released upon a world as a fully realised, bow wrapped gift of puritanical pop perfection – a world that by and large, has received the Canadian as the second coming… of little Donny Osmond at least.
It’s surprising then that Never Say Never is so dull – more so that it reveals so little about his story. It takes the form of an concert movie concerning the days running up to Bieber’s appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden, interspersed with home movie footage and some images of the singer praying backstage that are far more unnerving than anything you’ll find in The Wicker Man. It also does little to support the films strapline: ‘find out what’s possible when you never give up’. The revelation that his father left him as a child is dispatched with as quickly as crumbs on a shirt. I watched the movie waiting for Bieber’s Anvil moment, his Rocky-esque knockout punch to hardship and toil. Unless it was the bit where his hair kept falling in his eyes, I’m sad to say I missed it.
Whether you like his music or not is irrelevant: there is a great Justin Bieber movie longing be made. A film about what it’s like being a last gasp hurrah for stardom in a world where enigma and mystique have been forever eroded by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. This isn’t it. This isn’t a film about being a sensation, or a 16-year-old, or a person. It’s a film about saying your prayers, brushing your teeth, and learning your dance routines – it couldn’t be more palatable if it was released in a new audio/visual format more akin to mashed potato than DVD. Evidence suggests Bieber’s fans are lapping it up, and will continue to do so. But to anyone who wanted to put a human face on one that appears to be made of plastic and puppeteered like a marionette, Never Say Never offers nothing. That feels like a missed opportunity to me, even if the masses may think not.