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Justin Bieber: Say Never

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I’ll give a disclaimer to start this review: Justin Bieber had to do a lot for me to get me to like him in the new documentary, “Never Say Never,” which is, get this, based on his “life.” By its simple nature, this film had several obstacles to clear before some critics (this one included) could seriously consider it legitimate.

Obstacle number one:

This is the life story of a 16-year-old boy. Granted, this is not the average 16 year old. He is an international superstar and commands the hearts of 14-year-old girls everywhere, and therefore controls the wallets of the parents of 14-year-old girls everywhere. But come on — the kid still has yet to hit puberty.

Obstacle number two:

Bieber’s music is polarizing. Yes, junior high and early high school girls love him and his overly catchy, over-played singles, but it would be hard to find a large constituency of Bieber fanatics at this university, especially among the male population.

Obstacle number three:

I think he’s a punk. Call it unprofessional, call it editorialization, call it whatever, but I know that I don’t speak just for myself. There is a stigma, fair or not, surrounding him as a bit of an annoying little kid.

With seemingly divisive biases levied against it, one might think it would be wise to address said obstacles within the documentary. Show the amazing story that brought this teenager from an unknown to a household name in less than two years. Show him to be not just a normal kid, but a good kid as well. Show that his musical talent extends beyond his childlike voice and catchy choruses.

I’ll give the makers of the film credit — they tried, kind of. The film gives anecdotes of the singer’s early life, showing him to be a musical prodigy from an early age. It gives some light to the difficult path that he had to overcome to achieve his stardom.

It even shows Bieber as a regular teenager who wants to play basketball with his friends and just have a good time.

The film also tries to show him as a good guy in a painfully awkward encounter between Bieber and a young girl playing the violin on the same street corner that Bieber used to sing from for money. I felt sorry for everyone involved.

However, for the most part, whatever insight into Bieber that is gained from the film is superficial and is cut short by the lack of focus in the documentary. Seemingly over half of the film is dedicated to clips of live stage performances and to the unbelievable adoration of Bieber by teenage and preteen girls.

At one point, I tried to play a game with myself that I entitled “count how many shots of girls crying because they love Justin Bieber so much this movie can show in a one minute span.” But then I lost count at 20-something and slapped myself instead.

But the real problem with the film rests in its purpose. I wanted to see this documentary because I wanted to find out for myself why it was made. I walked out slightly irked and still not able to tell for certain.

It could have been an inside look at the possibilities created by the fact that this kid became what he is today because of the internet and social networking. Bieber is the first YouTube-created superstar, which could cause an interesting shift in the dynamic of the career process for future artists. But while this idea is mentioned, it is not dwelled on.

The film could have focused on how Bieber is dealing with this rapid shift from being a normal kid to a household name seemingly overnight. But again, this is mentioned but not really expanded upon. In fact, there are remarkably little personal views of Bieber in this documentary. Most of his airtime is in video from his concerts.

The only real purpose that seems to be present in this documentary is to further the brand of Justin Bieber. The film seems mostly concerned with convincing the audience that this kid is a star. Which, frankly, seems a little foolish. It’s safe to say that if a person is going to this documentary, he or she already knows that he’s a star.

But enough negativity — I’ll end on a positive. This film did do one thing very well. It showed Bieber’s incredible musical talent. Yes, he can sing. But he can also play the piano, guitar and trumpet. He is quite possibly a better drummer than he is a singer. He writes all his own songs. He can dance and has an intangible talent for entertaining a crowd. So bad news, Bieber haters, this kid isn’t going away for a long time, even after he hits puberty.

But even with that said, unless you’ve already been struck with a bad case of Bieber Fever (a phrase that I would to personally punch in the metaphorical face), you have grade school aged girls or you’re that creepy old woman who sat behind me, there really is not much reason to pay money to see this.

The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer. Kevin Noonan can be contacted at knoonan2@nd.edu.