You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Justin Bieber’s Believe’

Concert pic says it ain't easy being the king of teen pop. Non-Beliebers need not apply.


Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun, Ryan Good, Usher Raymond IV, Pattie Mallette, Jeremy Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Seacrest, will.i.am, Jon M. Chu, Zach Galifianakis.

It’s every bit as enthusiastically admiring and image-enhancing as you’d expect a documentary co-produced by its title subject to be. Still, “Justin Bieber’s Believe” is a slickly entertaining piece of work that will doubtless delight the young pop star’s fan base, and possibly engage curiosity seekers who have heretofore remained immune or indifferent to Bieber Fever. Director Jon M. Chu’s follow-up to his similarly celebratory “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” (2011) won’t likely match the earlier film’s $99 million worldwide haul — and not just because this 2D feature can’t rely on that pic’s 3D bump — but homevid biz could be impressive.

Continuing his role as Bieber’s authorized biographer, Chu deftly mixes spectacular performance sequences with backstage interviews and observations, along with ample footage of ecstatically screaming female fans. (At one point, Chu audaciously intercuts visual comparisons between Bieber Fever and Beatlemania.)

There’s a pronounced increase in actual concert footage in this latest chapter, along with myriad indications that the fresh-faced innocent on view in “Never Say Never” has grown more mature and guarded, and much more self-aware, as his phenomenal career continues apace. Just as important, there is a mild but discernible tension percolating just below the film’s surface — a teasing hint that, no matter what Bieber achieves as an entertainer, he has already begun to realize that each new accomplishment can quickly turn into a proverbial hard act to follow.

On the other hand, “Believe” also suggests that the indefatigably spirited Bieber still has a sense of humor about himself. Early in the documentary, he self-mockingly admits that his wispy excuse for a mustache is a “delusional” attempt to appear more grown-up. Later, we’re shown a generous except from the instant-classic “Funny or Die” segment in which a hectoring interviewer (Zach Galifianakis) delivers Bieber an old-fashioned belt-whipping as punishment for such purported misdeeds as publicly urinating in buckets (and, apparently, stealing Vanilla Ice’s hairdo).

Maintaining the ability to laugh at yourself probably comes in handy for someone in Bieber’s position, which “Believe” locates as dead-center in a bull’s-eye. Even as various friends and collaborators repeatedly attest to the seriousness with which Bieber approaches his work, the young phenom just as frequently speculates that, after rising so high in such a short amount of time, he has aroused the ire of haters who now are waiting — and hoping — for an equally speedy downfall.

“Believe” is not exactly a deeply serious study of fame and its transformative effects. But Chu stops far short of becoming a celebrity apologist while enabling his audience to appreciate how bumpy the ride can be sometimes for someone flying at Bieber’s current altitude. Noting the very public flameouts of such notables as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, the filmmaker bluntly tells his subject: “You are a perfect candidate to become a train wreck.” Bieber quickly dismisses that notion, but it’s easy to see that he has considered the possibility.

In addition to directing the film and appearing on camera as one of Bieber’s intimates, Chu also served as artistic designer of the extravagant stage show for Bieber’s 2012-13 “Believe” tour. Highlights from that show are scattered throughout the documentary, ranging from the exuberantly silly (Bieber appears to hover on wings constructed from his favorite musical instruments) to rousingly razzle-dazzle. Easily the movie’s most affecting moment occurs when Bieber momentarily breaks down while paying tribute to a young fan with whom he bonded before she lost her battle with cancer.

The stage show also showcases a lengthy video that smacks of cheeky revenge fantasy, with Bieber doing hand-to-hand (and foot-to-head) damage to the ninja-like paparazzi who relentlessly pursue him. The mayhem is all the more amusing because it comes not long after “Believe” introduces news footage of Bieber’s real-life clash with aggressive Brit photographers.

Production values — especially the sound mix — are first-class across the board. As for the music itself: If you like this sort of stuff, this is the sort of stuff you’ll probably like, a lot. And if you don’t, well, you wouldn’t willingly buy a ticket to “Believe” in the first place, right?

Film Review: 'Justin Bieber's Believe'

Reviewed at Edwards Grand Palace 24, Houston, Dec. 25, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 91 MIN.


(Documentary) An Open Road Films release presented with Dolphin Films of a Bieber Time Films/Scooter Braun Films production in association with Island Def Jam Music Group. Produced by Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun, Bill O’Dowd and Usher Raymond IV. Co-producers, Anthony Leo, Andrew Rosen, Whitney Brown. Executive producers, Charlie Cohen, Sarah Landman, Brad Haugen, Scott Manson, Allison Kaye Scarinzi. 


Directed by Jon M. Chu. Camera (color), Karsten "Crash" Gopinath; editors, Avi Youabian, Jillian Moul; music, Nathan Lanier; music supervisor, Chris "Tek" O'Ryan; choreographer, Nick DeMoura; sound (Dolby Digital), Juan Nunez, Ray Rifice, Andy Theiss; re-recording mixers, Cory Mandel, Frank Morrone; associate producers, Heather McKay, Alize Emme, Joanna Lamb, Victoria Mejia; assistant director, Kellie JoTackett. 


Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun, Ryan Good, Usher Raymond IV, Pattie Mallette, Jeremy Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Ellen DeGeneres, Ryan Seacrest, will.i.am, Jon M. Chu, Zach Galifianakis.

More Film

  • 'Parasite' Review: A Brilliant, Bleak Bong

    Cannes Film Review: 'Parasite'

    A laugh turns into a snarl which gets stuck in the throat like a sob — or an arrow through the neck — in Bong Joon-ho’s latest wild, wild ride, “Parasite.” On paper, that might not sound so very different from the experience of watching Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” “Memories of Murder” “The Host” or “Okja.” The [...]

  • 'Maradona' Director Asif Kapadia Talks About

    'Diego Maradona' Director Asif Kapadia Talks About His Cannes Doc

    Global sports icon and lauded soccer player Diego Maradona’s dramatic life intrigued Oscar and BAFTA winner director Asif Kapadia (“Amy,” “Senna”) while he was still in film school. “It had an incredibly strong backstory and extremes of good and dark,” he recalls. Fast-forward to more than 20 years later as his feature documentary, “Diego Maradona” [...]

  • the long walk

    Stephen King's 'The Long Walk' Film Taps 'Scary Stories to Tell' Director

    New Line has tapped André Øvredal to direct the feature adaptation of Stephen King’s dystopian thriller “The Long Walk.” Øvredal’s credits include mystery thriller “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” and the upcoming horror film “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro and releasing on Aug. 9. James Vanderbilt [...]

  • Central Partnership Inks Multiple Deals on

    Cannes: Central Partnership Inks Multiple Deals on 'Billion' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s Central Partnership has closed several territory sales on Roman Prygunov’s comedy crime thriller “Billion.” Central Partnership has sold the movie to China (Jetsen Huashi Media), Turkey (ATV), France and French-speaking territories (Trade Media), Bulgaria (A Plus Film) and Baltics (GPI). The film centers on banker Matvey Levin, who goes to great lengths to avoid [...]

  • Cannes: Four Polish Female Directors Embark

    Cannes: Four Polish Female Directors Embark on 'Erotica 2022' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Four Polish female filmmakers have partnered with four top female Polish authors on film project “Erotica 2022.” The producer Marta Lewandowska is in Cannes seeking financing. The pic, set in the near future in Poland, is composed of four stories about women’s issues, loosely connected, and all with an erotic element. The film is directed [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Cannes Film Review: Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood'

    It has been 25 years to the day since Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, crystalizing a cinema revolution, and we have never looked back. Yet here’s one more QT anniversary, a bit less monumental but, in its way, as meaningful: It has been 10 years since the premiere of “Inglourious [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content