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Movie Review: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (G)

bieberBy: Roxana Hadadi

Guess what, parents? You’re never getting these 105 minutes back. And your kid probably will never be as rich as Justin Bieber.

Remember the screaming hordes of girls that used to nearly at the sight of the Beatles? Well, the girls you see in “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” are kind of like that, except for where John, Paul, George and Ringo eventually stood for something. What does the Biebs stand for? Underage opulence, brightly colored sweatshirts with studded hearts on the sleeve and $750 haircuts. In this economy!

But I digress.

It’s easy to poke fun at any pop star, really (what would gossip blogs do without them?), but Bieber puts himself out there with this flick, a biopic of sorts that takes a look at his 16 years of life so far. Part documentary, part concert film, “Never Say Never” paints Bieber as the savior of pop music in a mostly inspirational light. He did it, so can you! Believe in yourself, nothing is out of your grasp! Let the clichés flow, people.

Is Justin Bieber talented? Yes. Is his monumental success impressive? Yes. Is there any point to this movie? No.

If you’re a Bieber fan, you probably already know all these details about his life: that he started playing drums early, performed in a talent show in his Canadian hometown and was discovered by talent manager Scooter Braun on YouTube. These aren’t new facts to his obsessive followers – is there any other kind? – and the concert footage in the film is just like watching an overly long music video. While the flick tries to give us a narrative framework, ticking down the 10 days until his sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 31, we all know the show is going to be a success. If it wasn’t, there’d be no movie.

But Bieber fans are relentless. You’ll see that in the film, which delights in showing us screaming girl after screaming girl, all holding signs and wearing T-shirts proclaiming their love for the teen. “I think about him, like, 99 percent of my life,” says a young girl wearing way too much lipstick. They’re inspired by the fact that his dream to be a famous singer “just like, came true,” and they hold out hope that one day he’ll marry all of them. “We’ll all be his wife,” another girl confidently says. If TLC is looking for another cast for “Sister Wives,” look no further than “Never Say Never.”

What drives these girls so wild is Bieber’s charisma, which is undeniable. The film begins with interviews with his mother and grandparents, who glowingly discuss how his mother raised him alone after she and Bieber’s father broke up when he was about 10 months old; as a young mother, she wanted to give her son everything. And when he began showing an inclination toward music and a strong sense of rhythm – which you see through countless home videos of him playing drums and guitar – she decided to encourage the interest. That led to him competing in an “American Idol”-like competition in his hometown and Bieber and his mother uploading videos of his performances on YouTube. Though the clips were meant only for his relatives, the vignettes of him belting songs by performers like Ne-Yo got him noticed by thousands of people on YouTube and by Braun, who would eventually sign him. So the Bieber mania began.

Then the film cuts to August 2010, with Bieber on his 86-performance My World 2.0 tour. As his team looks ahead to the Aug. 31 show at Madison Square Garden, Bieber performs in other places in Ontario, near Bieber’s hometown of Stratford; is joined onstage by people like Boyz II Men and Miley Cyrus; and generally does whatever he wants. He jokes around with his friends. He gets pizza. He plays pranks. And, he also prays a lot, an interesting thing to include – not only is Bieber hardworking and charming, he’s religious too!

Maybe that’s too cynical, but is there anything this film wants us to think Bieber can’t do? He loves his mom, he gets along well with his management team, he’s thankful his dad is now involved in his life, he’s cheeky and funny and well-meaning. He’s changing lives, Braun boasts, by giving out prime seats to fans and inspiring people everywhere.

But inspiring them to do what, exactly? “Never Say Never” gives us all surface but no substance, since the film doesn’t show us Bieber performing real charity, like helping out the disabled or underprivileged, and it doesn’t follow fans who are inspired to pursue their own musical interests because of Bieber. Instead, about half of the film is spent showing us performances, which while at times impressive visually because of his stage design (not because of the 3-D, which only lets us think Bieber is reaching specifically toward us while singing his ballads) aren’t providing us with another side to the kid. And maybe that’s just it: Bieber is a kid, and before he truly becomes an icon – or, you know, even an adult – maybe he shouldn’t have a movie.

“Never Say Never” is rated G, so it’s theoretically appropriate for all audiences (the only real scandalous part is Miley Cyrus’s outfits, which are criminally short). In the words of the Biebs himself, though, do you need to see it? Baby, baby, baby, no.

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