You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Film possesses surprising moments of candor on the toil of teenage superstardom.

With: Justin Bieber, Boyz II Men, Miley Cyrus, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Mama Jan Smith, Scooter Braun, Randy Phillips, Pattie Mallette.

Though anyone who needs convincing won’t touch this one with a 10-foot pole, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” makes a persuasive case for its titular star as a far more talented-than-usual teen idol. As much a legitimate documentary as it is a 3D concert film and teen girl squeal-delivery device, the film possesses surprising moments of candor on the toil of teenage superstardom, even if the overall effect is purely promotional. Provided it skirts the curse of the Jonas Brothers (who released a similar film just as their popularity began to flatline), it should go over like gangbusters.

While they ought to be distracted enough by the intimate interview footage (and almost creepily frequent shirtless sequences) of the Biebs on display, fans expecting a straightforward concert pic will likely be confused by the early going. The film starts with what seems a sort of meta-commentary, showing an onscreen email inbox opening up to YouTube clips of laughing babies and Failblog mishaps before finally reminding the audience of the singer’s roots singing in simple, homemade viral clips.

Indeed, Bieber is perhaps the first fully social-media-bred pop star, so it’s no surprise that he should be so easygoing with the film crew here, alternately mugging for director Jon M. Chu and tolerating him as though he were an intrusive, camera-wielding grandparent.

From here, pic intersperses half-song glimpses of Bieber’s headlining stint at Madison Square Garden last year with backstage footage and biographical info, all chaptered by a rolling countdown to the show. Included is his childhood with a single teenage mother in small-town Canada, the emergence of his precocious musical talent and his subsequent quasi-adoptions by both record-label svengali Scooter Braun and superstar mentor Usher.

No doubt, this kid can really sing, and play some decent guitar and drums — as homevideo of the artist as a (somewhat) younger man busking on street corners illustrates — and he’s often disconcertingly adult in his professional demeanor.

Attempts to derive high narrative drama from Bieber’s nagging throat problems on the eve of the big gig are a bit ludicrous, especially considering we’ve been watching selections from said concert throughout. But they do provide an interesting glimpse at the behind-the-scenes machinations of the whole enterprise. They also beg the big question of whether its healthy to consign a 16-year-old kid to a life of such pressures, and a brief invocation of Michael Jackson’s death makes one a bit apprehensive about whether the team in his corner has his best interests in mind.

Pic eventually shows its heavier hand later on, as Braun describes his rather self-aggrandizing habit of teasing ticketless fans outside concert venues before bequeathing them primo comped seats as “giving back,” and the interviews with such fans who can recite Bieber’s birthday down to the minute and day of the week are a little alarming. But at other times, the film (and by association, its star) shows a healthy sense of humor about the Bieber Fever phenomenon, including a hilarious slo-mo sequence of Bieber flipping his famous hair to the strains of Etta James’ “At Last.”

The 3D work is mostly applied to the concert itself, which finally begins to take precedence with a Miley Cyrus duet and reaches a full-on giddy climax with the set-closing “Baby,” the sole song in Bieber’s catalog thus far that seems destined for the archives. Other tech contributions, including the filling-loosening sound mix, are expertly handled.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Production: A Paramount release and presentation of a Scooter Braun Films and L.A. Reid Media production in association with AEG Live. Produced by Braun, Justin Bieber, Antonio "L.A." Reid, Usher Raymond IV, Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz. Executive producers, David Nicksay, Randy Phillips, Doug Merrifield. Co-producer, Jonathan McHugh. Directed by Jon M. Chu.

Crew: Camera (color, 3D, DV, video), Reed Smoot; editors, Avi Youabian, Jay Cassidy, Jillian Moul; music, Deborah Lurie; music supervisor, Kuk Harrell; art director, Stephen Carter; sound (Dolby/DTS/SDDS), John D. McCormick, Joshua Anderson, Michael Frohberg, Paul Reed, L. Wyatt Tyzo; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Tim Chau; re-recording mixers, David E. Fluhr, Chau; stereographer, Vincent Pace; associate producer, Archie Gips; assistant director, David H. Venghaus. Reviewed at Nokia Theater, Los Angeles, Feb. 8, 2011. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 105 MIN.

Cast: With: Justin Bieber, Boyz II Men, Miley Cyrus, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Mama Jan Smith, Scooter Braun, Randy Phillips, Pattie Mallette.

More Music

  • Benny Blanco House Los Angeles

    Benny Blanco Swipes Right on Tinder Founder's $9 Million L.A. Mansion

    An elegant traditional estate conveniently sited in the Hollywood foothills just above the iconic Sunset Strip recently traded hands for nearly $9.2 million. Originally built in the late 1930s, the house was sold by tech tycoon Sean Rad, co-founder of juggernaut dating app Tinder, and acquired by exceptionally prolific songwriter/record producer Benny Blanco. Blanco may [...]

  • Kelsea Ballerini 53rd Annual CMA Awards,

    iHeartCountry Festival Slates Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bentley for May Show

    The annual iHeartCountry Festival has announced a slate of performers for its 2020 concert stream and broadcast, led by top country performers Dierks Bentley, Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, Dustin Lynch and Kane Brown, iHeartMedia announced Tuesday. The show will take place at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center May 2 and be broadcast live across [...]

  • Holy Shipwrecked

    Dance Music Festival Holy Shipwrecked Finds its Footing on Land

    For dance music fans, festival season kicks off early, with the number of warm weather winter events growing apace with demand. Festivals targeting the same American audience of EDM enthusiasts took place — or will take place — this winter in Costa Rica (BPM Festival), Hawaii (next month’s ‘E Komo Mai’ festival), Florida (Groove Cruise), [...]

  • Lewis Capaldi

    Lewis Capaldi Signs Rights Deal With Kobalt

    Kobalt today announced that it has signed Lewis Capaldi to an international neighboring rights deal. The Capitol recording artist was previously represented by PPL for international collections. Ann Tausis, CEO of Kobalt Neighboring Rights, commented on the deal, “Lewis’s ascent to the top has been breathtaking. His emotive songs and charming social media presence have [...]

  • Justin Bieber Changes album

    Justin Bieber Reveals 'Changes' Release Date, North American Tour

    Justin Bieber will release his fifth studio album, “Changes,” on Feb. 14. The Valentine’s Day drop comes a little over three weeks after his YouTube series “Justin Bieber: Seasons” premieres on the video streaming platform. The single “Yummy” is already out and has logged more than 300 million streams since its debut last month. In [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content