Directed by: John Chu (Step Up 3D)
Starring: Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Ludacris, Usher, Jaden Smith, Sean Kingston
The idea of reviewing something like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is a fool’s errand. It’s a movie created solely for the legions of teen and younger Bieberites (or whatever they call themselves), and a chance for them to see their icon in all the glory of three-dimensions.
The film is a spiritual successor to the previous Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert 3D and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (2009). Aside from the snappier title, this entry has a few advantages over its predecessors, not the least of which is that it doesn’t star either Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. Bieber, despite some pretty forgettable tunes, is a much more appealing star. (Excepting, perhaps, a song that has the same gaudiness and dramatic arc as “November Rain” and another where Ludacris comes out and doesn’t rap about licking people.) As far as Bieber’s brand of teen-idol corniness goes, he’s at least free of that faux-sheen of Christian innocence that the Jonas Brothers trade in. Nor does he carry the increasingly frightening visage of Cyrus, who—after her last blip of relevance caught getting stoned on YouTube to ‘90s alt-rock—makes a guest appearance here, now looking like an unholy mix between a velociraptor and somebody’s trashy mom, singing with the voice of a wounded yak.
After watching the movie and being ambivalent toward Bieber’s standing as a dreamboat to millions of hormonal teenage girls, I will say that he’s at the very least more talented—if not more than a bit disposable and unexciting—than what’s been fobbed-off to the movie-going public in the past. This isn’t to say that I can remember a single Justin Bieber song, or ever have the desire to inflict one upon myself again, but this kind of saccharine pop music always has and always will be around. If it gives brace-faced tweens something to get excited about, and a poster to put on their wall, then so be it.
Of course, most of the documentary aspects of the movie are meant to convince you that Bieber is a talented guy who worked for his fame, but nonetheless remains a normal 16-year-old. This works within its own means as trivial entertainment of a manufactured image, but anyone watching Never Say Never and hoping to get down to the nitty-gritty existential truth of Justin Bieber has other issues to worry about. There’s nothing to suggest that Bieber hasn’t worked for his fame, while nothing helps his standing as just-another-kid more than Will Smith’s son Jaden showing up and discussing how his pops is being helicoptered in.
As concert footage, it’s all pyrotechnic spectacle, with a special guest for every song, from the obvious (the aforementioned spawn of Billy Ray) to the bizarre (like Boys II Men showing up to do back-up vocals, although without the dude with the cane). And while there’s some impressive 3D confetti effects, there’s never anything as tasteless as the audience of young girls getting hosed down with sticky white stuff like in the Jonas Brothers movie. In all, Never Say Never is so much a piece of harmless junk that it’s impossible to get worked up about, one way or the other. Rated G.