Susan Granger’s review of “Never Say Never” (Paramount Pictures)
Teen idol Justin Bieber’s G-rated concert documentary is such a hit that Paramount Pictures is now offering Jon M. Chu’s Director’s Film Cut in 3-D, updating the original release. Chu (“Step Up 3”D”) has trimmed 30 minutes to accommodate additional scenes, and this new version runs 115 minutes instead of the original 105 minutes. This unprecedented move is aimed at Bieber’s ardent adolescent fans, and the original 35 mm, 2-D version will continue playing at theaters unable to accommodate a digital print. The new footage includes more of Bieber’s friends and hometown life, as well as new songs and footage of the premiere.
Charismatic yet androgynous, 16 year-old Bieber relates his story as a blatant promotional and marketing tool en route to Madison Square Garden. Born in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, he was raised by a loving teenage mother and grandparents after his parents separated when he was 10 months old. He showed an early natural talent, playing the drums, piano and guitar, along with singing and dancing. He quickly garnered fans when his mother posted performance videos on YouTube, where an Atlanta record executive, Scott “Scooter” Braun, spied him and introduced him to supportive R&B star Usher and music mogul Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Bieber emphasizes that he’s paid his dues, diligently working with a vocal coach and performing at malls, amusement parks and high schools, fueling the fan base which launched Bieber-fever, perhaps making him the first pop star created by the new social media.
There’s an engaging duet with Miley Cyrus and appearances by Boyz II Men, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Mama Jan Smith, Randy Phillips and Pattie Mallette, along with Bieber’s crooning “Baby,” plus a slow-motion sequence of his flipping his famous helmet-hair from side-to-side to Etta James’s “At Last.” All this makes the devoted “True Beliebers” scream, moan and cry hysterically, proclaiming their love for him.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Never Say Never” is a curiously sanitized, if sycophantic 6, examining the Bieber phenomenon from a bland, ‘authorized’ viewpoint.