It would be wrong to say that Justin Bieber is not a pop sensation and that his story does not reveal a wealth of information on contemporary marketing techniques and teen culture. How much of that is due to his dazzling talents or lack thereof is another matter. As a film, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, is an interesting exploration of the revolutionary power of social media and its role in dictating and reflecting the interests of the teen demographic.
Director Jon Chu fights tirelessly to demonstrate Bieber’s underdog origins, thereby presumably proving that he has earned his mind-boggling fame through hard, honest toil, and the drive to never give up (hence the title). The film is meant to remind us that the confident teenager, with his blonde pixie cut, bouncy dance moves, and armies of screeching, wailing groupies, was once just an ordinary boy, posting homemade clips on youtube, until he was miraculously discovered and unleashed on the world.
Never Say Never knows its audience well, and proliferates with dynamic, extravagant stage effects (in 3D don’t forget), as well as squeal inducing views of Bieber himself from every imaginable angle and in various levels of attire. The frame is rarely devoid of a famous face or a big name including Usher, Jaden Smith, Sean Kingston, Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Boyz II Men, Shawn Stockman, and of course Miley Cyrus, a veteran of her own 3D concert film, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert.
The film definitely has value as a product of its time, a reflection of the fashions, interests, media, and environment of a specific generation in a specific time. It is also very much a representation of Bieber’s public image – supernaturally polished, flashy enough to be arrogant, yet energetic enough to pass for inspiring, and engineered for optimal cuteness.
If seen as a theme park ride for Bieber’s hyper-enthusiastic, ecstatically weeping fans, Never Say Never is a highly successful piece of work. To those not dying to embrace a 3D illusion of the great Bieber, or wishing to do a study on 21st century tween culture, it may induce some minor spontaneous cringing.
Director: Jon Chu
Cast: Justin Bieber, Boys II Men, Miley Cyrus, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher Raymond