'Never Say Never': The Justin Bieber mythology, not the real person

The Orlando SentinelFebruary 10, 2011 


    'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never'

    G. Paramount Pictures. 105 minutes. 3D: Fayette Mall, Georgetown, Hamburg, Movie Tavern, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill. 2D: Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.

There will be plenty of time for trashing hotel rooms down the road. A Neverland Ranch seems decades away. He'll be botching somebody's national anthem soon enough.

So for now, don't fight the fever, and don't hate those who have it. Justin Bieber, the first YouTube-created pop superstar, belongs to those who discovered him long before his "team" discovered him, worked him, promoted him and packaged him for Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a 3-D concert film that serves up the boy and the myth.

But 3-D or not, the film about the mop-topped Canadian, who will turn 17 on March 1, doesn't let us get very close to "the talent." We get an hour and 45 minutes of movie that runs through most of his hit songs (Baby, One Less Lonely Girl).

We're served snippets of home movies that chronicle his meteoric rise, a mocking moment of hair flipping and a few shirt-changing scenes guaranteed to make girls squeal. But there's not even a full minute of sound bites with only Bieber talking. That's how you protect an image.

Miley Cyrus shares the stage with him for a song, passing the teeny-bopper baton. Bieber sings with his idols, Boyz II Men. More cynically, Jaden Smith comes on for a song, pimped into the limelight by parents Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.

It's all good, clean fun, with 10-year-old fans declaring they plan to marry him and older women wanting to baby him. (His baby pictures are a fixture on projection screens at his shows.) The film retells the Bieber myth through interviews with his mentors, the most famous being singer Usher and super-producer L.A. Reid.

But Bieber's devoutly Christian mom, Pattie Malette, who had him in tiny Stratford, Ontario, when she was 18, gets limited screen time. (She has been known to get off message, after all.) His dad, who left Mom when Justin was 10 months old? A few tears, and even fewer words.

The talent is obvious, even in those earliest videos, when he was busking for spare change outside the Avon Theatre in Stratford, uncertain of pitch but covering soul and R&B tunes with conviction, confidence and passion.

But will we ever see the "real" Justin Bieber? Never say never, kids, but that won't come until this fever subsides. For now, Never Say Never is about as revealing as a Canadian snowmobile suit.

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