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Movie Review: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

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I was telling myself that taking my daughter to see Justin Bieber: Never Say Never in 3D was proof of my undying love for her. And I do love my kid. But truth be told, it was actually entertaining, even for a mostly uninitiated adult.

Bieber has a natural musical talent and his family has been videotaping him from an early age, so the filmmakers found it easy to supply the documentary evidence. The film was directed by Step Up 3D‘s Jon Chu, but only the concert scenes had any real 3D action, with the rest of the film containing documentary-style clips, interspersed with the family’s fuzzy-quality home video. The episodic 3D actually works, as the moments when Justin reaches out to the audience give the little girls a surprise and an extra opportunity to squeal. And there were some squealers in the audience, as well as some dancing in the aisles towards the end. Ah, youth.

The film is structured like pretty much every rock documentary. Some “origins of the band” material (in Bieber’s case, maybe more baby photos than most), a crisis (what will the doctor say about his vocal chords?), celebrity endorsements (Usher, Snoop Dogg) and plenty of concert footage. It’s interesting that Bieber has come up at a time in pop music when he can fully embrace all musical genres, including hip hop, yet not be another Vanilla Ice. Stars like Usher and Ludacris not only endorse but embrace the kid. His personal road to stardom is also cleverly contrasted and combined with other young stars like Miley Cyrus and Jaden Smith, who got their careers jump-started through nepotism and the Disney machine.

I can’t say that any of the songs stayed with me except “Baby,” but that’s probably because I had heard it so many times before. I’m not sure why synchronized cheerleading dance moves are still de riguer for every popular musical artist—isn’t anyone else as sick of that as I am yet?—but Bieber dances and  moonwalks cheerfully and the little girls go wild.

As much as Bieber owes his fame to the power of social media and young girls’ allowances, it was surprising to me to learn how much anti-Bieber buzz there is to be found on media sites, both in articles and comments. And that’s even before the Rolling Stone interview came out, with questions that seemed set up to make the kid trip over himself. Seriously, does anyone, apart from his core audience, who are probably not Rolling Stone subscribers, care to hear a seventeen year-old’s political and cultural opinions?

It’s hard to understand why so many people’s panties get in a twist about this kid. He’s talented, he’s cute, and he’s completely age-appropriate for his demographic. Why do adults feel that girls are plain silly or crazy to like him? They obviously don’t know or haven’t recently spent much time with little girls, who are plain silly and for the most part, like things that are pink and glittery and cute. Bieber is all of the above. There’s nothing wrong with girls having crushes on a “safe” idol. They’re not ready for much more at their age, and as their idol grows, so will they. They will either grow out of him, or grow with him. Bieber’s in a similar situation to a young Michael Jackson. Jackson and his fans grew up together. Bieber could either follow in his footsteps or, if the pop idol scene wanes for him, he is talented and driven enough to become a producer or some other music professional. After watching this film it is clear that he’s definitely going to be in the music business for a long time.

The kid smiles a lot, but his puppy-dog cutes can’t hide the fact that he is very driven and dedicated. Footage includes a young child barely big enough to sit on the drum kit stool, intermixed with street corner busking in Canada, and current-day dance-move rehearsal in front of the mirror before a show. It’s all the same kid, trying to perfect his moves, going for brass ring after ring. As much as the film tries to give a step-by-step of how Bieber broke through to the big time, it might gloss over the sheer ambition that is matched with the talent. Yet he still seems a pretty normal kid. Sure hope he stays that way.

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