Consider it a new kind of chick flick or a pretty spectacular 3-D infomercial. That depends how supportive -- or cynical -- you are about teen/tween pop. Either way, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" is a sweetly entertaining, canny celebration of the pop heartthrob du jour.
The nearly two-hour film is a smartly choreographed documentary about the Canadian idol that tugs at young girls' hearts with 3-D concert footage, cuddly closeups of the Biebs offstage (including priceless childhood videos) and vicarious situations in which female fans get free concert tickets, meet the Biebs or just scream. OMG!!!
This pop doc is much more flattering than any episode of "VH1's Behind the Music." At 16, Bieber probably doesn't have too many skeletons in his closest. He is portrayed as a hard-working, grounded kid who makes time for his fans, friends and family (who are very involved and concerned).
No parent with a Bieber-loving daughter will walk away from this film thinking the sweet, eminently likable Justin is going to want to grow up faster than Miley Cyrus.
"Never Say Never" starts off the way Bieber's career did -- YouTube videos. Then it creates an artificial story arc in which he has 10 days of concerts to get to the promised land, New York's sold-out Madison Square Garden, a high point of his meteoric career.
The film paints Bieber as an underdog, raised by a single teenage mom in Stratford, Ontario (population 32,000). Frequent interviews with his manager, Scooter Braun -- a Svengali for the digital era who discovered him on YouTube and filmed every step of their courtship and partnership -- emphasize the underdog notion at every turn. His drive is more forceful than Bieber's, but the young singer and his omnipresent mom seem cognizant of what they're getting into.
The requisite dramatic tension arises when Bieber starts developing problems with his vocal cords during his 86-concert tour, and a throat doctor and his touring vocal coach give him stern advice about shutting down and shutting up. (It's one of the few times in life that an authority figure encourages her charges to spend time texting and tweeting.) Too bad we don't see other adult-directed moments when he is rehearsing with the band, learning dance steps or doing his schoolwork (there is a gratuitous, fleeting shot of a pile of textbooks).
Befitting a high-budget infomercial, "Never Say Never" has a parade of guests onstage (Usher, Boyz II Men, Sean Kingston, Jaden Smith, Ludacris, Miley Cyrus) and off (Kobe Bryant, Snoop Dogg, Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, Drake). But mostly it's about the magic of the Biebs -- the catchy bubblegum music, cute face and that helmet hair.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719