Directed by Jon Chu. 105 minutes. G
Never Say Never may be the best tween concert documentary I’ve ever seen. Seriously.
Sure, it may be centred around Justin Bieber singing and dancing to his greatest hits (i.e. “Baby,” “One Less Lonely Girl”) at Madison Square Garden. But belieb it or not, Never Say Never is more than just another empty, cash-grab (See: Miley’s Best of Both Worlds Concert, the Jo Bros’ 3D Concert Experience. Or don’t…) Once you get past the slow-mo bang-whipping and interviews with temporary-tattooed twelve-year-olds, it’s a decent documentary on the double-edged sword that is being a child star.
The majority of the film is about the Biebs’ life before he got a record contract and the perfect non-haircut, when he lived with his mom and her parents in Stratford, Ontario. The cuts between this underdoggy past and his designer hoodie-filled present are positioned to pull on the heartstrings. We get footage of an eight-year-old Justin playing guitar for change on some stairs and then fast-forward to him giving words of encouragement to a girl playing violin at the very same spot.
Jon Chu’s (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D) highly stylized direction makes the whole thing seem very pre-packaged and fake, much like JB once his manager Scooter Braun got hold of him. But there’s a ton of interviews (everyone from his long-time BFF to his sometime frenemy, Miley Cyrus, makes an appearance) and can’t-fake-it conflict (Justin has a serious vocal cord scare) to bring it—and our view of purple-loving teen pop star—back to reality.
You might say you could never like a movie about Justin Bieber. A few months ago, I would have said the same thing. But having watched it, I have three words for you: never say, well, you know. B+
EXTRAS: An assortment of featurettes including “Concert Dance-Off,” “Favourite Girl,” “Giving Back” and “R.I.P Hair Flip,” some previews and of course, a purple DVD case.