By Sasha Debevec-McKenney
Justin Bieber’s movie “Never Say Never” was kind of perfect. It had one function to serve: make his fans happy, and it accomplished that with flying colors. In fact, it does more than make his fans happy — it makes people who aren’t his fans happy. I know this because I saw the movie on opening night in a theatre filled with pre-teen girls who literally could not contain themselves. They screamed at every moment possible and even jumped out of their seats. Although we sat down a little bit skeptical, by the end of the movie, my friends and I were dancing in our seats to “Baby,” and screaming when Ludacris walked onto the stage. It was like being a 14-year-old girl again. And it was fun.
“Never Say Never” is part concert film, part life-story. You may question whether a 16-year-old kid can have a life story, but that’s really not the point. Through interviews with his mother, grandparents, friends, and teachers, as well as home movies from his childhood, Bieber’s 16 years are pieced together neatly. He was born, his parents split up, he mastered the drums, he mastered the guitar, and he started singing. That’s the biggest revelation the movie gives to newcomers to Bieber Fever — that the boy is actually talented. Home movies of an 8-year-old Bieber on drums, and later, a 13-year-old Bieber belting out a more-than-respectable version of Alicia Keys’ “Falling” will actually make you doubt all the nasty things you said about him. The movie attempts to redeem Bieber in this way — you see him play instruments, sing songs acoustically, act just like you (he eats a doughnut out of the trash at one point!), and find his way to the top without the Disney Machine.
There are so many truly sweet parts in the movie — like when his manager and mother walk around and give away free front-row tickets or when his father comes to the tour and cries at his son’s performance. The movie spends a lot of time interviewing fans, and it’s hard not to hold a hand to your heart and say “Aww” to their genuine love and happiness (or laugh at how over-the-top it is). They manage to find a small amount of drama, however forced, when Justin’s vocal chords are swollen and he isn’t allowed to talk. He even gets genuinely upset when he’s forced to cancel a show. It’s during this dilemma when you truly realize he’s just 16 years old: his mom comes into his room and hugs him and tells him it’s all going to be okay.
Maybe I’m just a big softie, but “Never Say Never” wasn’t supposed to be a PG version of “Black Swan” or something. It’s supposed to be a semi-behind-the-scenes look at a person who is so obviously polished and presented to the public most of the time. Justin Bieber makes silly pop music, but didn’t we all like silly pop music at one point in our lives? Maybe the movie is a bit too long, and maybe he takes his shirt off one too many times, but all in all, I don’t have that many complaints. It accomplishes what it set out to accomplish: reaffirm and convert. After seeing a hair flip in slow motion 3D, you become a different person. The world is a more beautiful place. People might even say that you’ve become a Belieber, but rest assured, you’re not the only one.