Release Date: February 11, 2011
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Jon Chu
Performers: Justin Bieber, Jaden Smith, Miley Cyrus, Usher, Boyz II Men
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll confess that my Justin Bieber knowledge was rather limited before seeing Never Say Never.
Sure, I knew that Bieber-mania had basically dethroned the Jonas Brothers as the dreamiest pop stars on the planet. I was also aware that the 16-year-old’s trademark hair swoosh was beloved—and emulated—by the masses, even New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. But since I’m not the parent of a pre-teen, a teen or know anyone who listens (or would own up to listening if they did) to his music, well, that’s about all the Biebs’ info I had at my disposal.
While I’m clearly not in the target demographic for Never Say Never, I was sitting with tons o’ screaming girls that were, and it didn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out they thought that every moment was absolutely genius. Case in point: When Biebs baby pics were flashed onscreen, they awwed in unison. And later on, when Justin hugged his Mom and then serenaded and handed a dozen roses to a random girl who was brought onstage during a show, yep, more awws and “Ooooh, I wish that was me.”
As you can probably guess, there was no shortage of “aww-worthy” moments in an hour and a half, and this particular audience wasn’t shy about proclaiming their devotion for all things Bieber. I expect that will also be the case at a theater near you.
Unlike the Jo Bros’ 3D concert experience back in 2009, Never Say Never is less of long-form concert video and more of a behind-the-scenes documentary. Think VH1’s “Behind the Music” without the requisite sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll storyline. As expected, music plays a prominent role, but really, this is more about the realization of a dream and what lengths Bieber, his family and those who inevitably discovered him, went to accomplish it.
Turns out, Bieber’s love—and aptitude—for all things musical began very early in his life. Not only did his mother figure out that he could really sing by age three, but that he had rhythm, too, whether he was strumming the guitar or pounding on a makeshift drum-kit. Considering that he grew up in a small town in Canada, however, he didn’t have many opportunities to showcase his burgeoning talent, save for Sunday church services and local talent shows. Thanks to a little website called YouTube, though, his interpretations of everything from Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” to Lifehouse’s “You and Me” were getting some major exposure.
Before long, those YouTube performances eventually led Bieber to his manager Scooter Braun who was convinced that Bieber was destined for major stardom—even without the support of the Disney and Nickelodeon talent machine. Braun’s instincts proved correct, but not without some initial reservations from major record labels and a lot of flesh, namely that of radio station programmers, that needed pressing.
After criss-crossing the U.S., winning over nearly every important guy and gal in radio and effectively using Twitter to connect with fans, it wasn’t long before Bieber needed crowd control wherever he turned up. And with further blessing of a future industry peer/mentor, Usher, Bieber started recording, touring and the rest was showbiz history.
Given Bieber’s quick rise to fame and how many fellow young stars have made headlines for scandalous behavior (see Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, etc.), one can’t help wondering if he will eventually follow suit. I mean, he is only 16 after all and worth millions.
Of course, a movie like Never Say Never can’t (and won’t) tell the whole story. But from the inside glimpse the audience is given here, it appears that Bieber has a steady support system to keep him—and his ego—in check. Whether he’s on the road or back at home, he thrives in a tight-knit community of mostly regular people (read: not celebs) who support him in his chosen profession but don’t seem particularly in awe of it. In fact, everyone from his parents to his manager and bodyguard is always encouraging him to always give back and lead by example. Further anchoring Bieber is a Mom who prays, something he also does, even with friends before meals.
So will Bieber ultimately be a teenage flash in the pan or an artist that endures? Well, that’s up to the public, I suppose. But if Bieber has anything to say about it, he clearly plans on staying around for a while. In the end, one can only hopes that popularity (and its monetary entrapments) won’t change him because for now, he seems like someone positive for his fans to look up to—which is more you can say for many pop culture icons.
- Drugs/Alcohol: None.
- Language/Profanity: A couple of oh my G-- exclamations from excited fans.
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence: None.
- Religion: As it turns out, Justin grew up singing in church, so we see a bit of that. It’s also clear that faith still plays an important role in his family’s life. Justin is shown praying before a meal, and his Mom prays for—and with him—when he’s sick and before his shows.