As printed in mX, Thursday April 7th 2011.
Starring: Justin Bieber
Director: Jon Chu
At the 2009 VMA Music Awards, Madonna spoke of the late Michael Jackson and lamented the fact he had his childhood stolen from him.
Justin Bieber turns to his manager Scott “Scooter” Braun and says “don’t let that happen to me”.
Many of you seeing this movie may be thinking: “too late”.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: you don’t need to be a Bieber fanatic to see that this is one talented kid.
Never Say Never follows Bieber in the lead-up to his first concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden, a venue reserved for the biggest names in the music business.
It’s a major landmark in anyone’s career, more so the career of a 16-year-old boy plucked from obscurity after becoming a YouTube sensation. The movie aims to inspire us by showing this youth achieving his dream, and on the surface it’s little more than a two-hour advertisement for the Bieber phenomenon.
However, completely by accident, this documentary showcases the first act in what could easily become a tragedy of Michael Jackson proportions.
Firstly, we meet a sample of the large number of adults whose livelihoods depend on the thin strips of membrane in this young boy’s throat.
Time and time again we’re told how hard Justin is prepared to work and rehearse, but it’s not Bieber saying so - it’s his team of surrogate parents.
Bieber’s voice, the most important thing on stage, is rarely heard off stage.
After all, he’s only a kid, right?
Well, the lyrics he sings assume a fairly adult understanding love and relationships.
And then there’s his concert performance of One Less Lonely Girl, a track with a disturbing tradition that sees the Bieber staff pull a solitary girl out of the crowd of sccreaming pre-teens, sit her up on stage, and have Bieber serenade her in front of the entire venue. On the surface this is a movie that glorifies dreams and romanticism, but underneath there’s an uneasy feeling we’re witnessing the exploitation of a boy who isn’t even old enough to shave.
An enjoyable experience for Bieber fans and eye-opening for those with little to no Bieber experience, Never Say Never is harmless fun for as long as the cameras are running.
But even as it focuses on the fantasy, it seems faintly aware that reality is just around the corner.