Never Say Never
Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Rated G
Film Length: 104 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Video: MPEG-4 AVC 1080P High Definition
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Release Date: May 13, 2011
Review Date: May 14, 2011
“First 20 kids, then 40 kids, then 50 kids then hundreds of kids starting lining up just to get a glimpse of him”
There is nothing unexpected in this concert experience. Behind the scenes footage of a young, talented, confident and well-pampered pop star, performances of chart-topping hits, screaming fans losing all sense of esteem and decorum in displays of giddy jubilation, and a steady stream of praise from family, crew, and fellow talent of young Justin’s talents. But the unexpected is not what Never Say Never ever wanted to be.
A few moments surprise in this film where some creativity in the documentation presentment stand out, but mostly this is a clever piece of product/marketing/fan-food specifically designed to appeal to the pry cash from teenage babysitters and the parents of teens with limited allowances.
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
Cleverly, Never Say Never opens with a prologue of Beiber’s viral you tube launch to fame, demonstrating the sharing of cute and funny clips via email and the ‘word’ spreading in the form of viral videos – from giggling babies to Dan Savage’s “it gets better” video – that gave rise to his sensational eruption on the pop scene. The framework for this concert video is established to be the countdown to Bieber’s performance at the prestigious Madison Square Gardens, the venue he (and his family) set their sights upon for him to perform a sold-out show in what is considered New York City’s top-flight concert and sports arena. The lead-up to the MSG performance is accompanied by footage of Bieber as a 2-year old demonstrating his early appetite for musical expression – particularly percussion – and the encouragement of his mother and grandparents.
All the requisite bases of light-documentary concert films are covered. Justin is seen playing around with the tour crew, his family is shown recalling his skills and desires to perform growing up, and adoring and doting fans talking, crying, screaming, and at times babbling, on camera. There are ripples of self-promotion just beneath the surface of the entire film - the kind of self-aggrandizement not unexpected a boy this young enjoying the success that he has studied by cameras and production crews as he heads towards a defining performance at MSG. Setting aside this conspicuously thread, there is an interesting story here. A young boy of considerable musical talent creates YouTube videos that spread like lightning – is discovered by Usher (and others who lost out to Usher in signing him) and rises through the charts around the world in a meteoric rise. Where this young boy is today and the value of the image and the sincerity of that image aside, the story is inspiring.
Society splinters predictably when phenomenon’s like Bieber hits. The adoring crowd admiring of his moves, pre-fabricated pop, safe music, and sweet character – and the annoyed bunch dismissive of the music, put-off by the confidence, perhaps jealous of the success and perturbed by the adoring crowds.
The pressure on this young man cannot possible be understood by those of us outside of that industry. Cockiness and confidence rarely looks good on kids, but this young man has the talent; a natural gift for musical instruments, timing, performance inclinations, and the looks that make it easy for legions of followers to buy his records, posters, t-shirts, and any magazine sporting his face.
Concert films come in a few flavors. Straight concert recordings – like Dave Gilmour Live in Gdansk or U23D, the concert tour, like the underappreciated U2: Rattle and Hum, and the single concert event, like Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds (Reviewed here). Never Say Never shoots for the latter and builds to the finale performance in New York with surprising patience.
For those annoyed by manufacture teen pop, aggravated by the national distraction of celebrity, or soured by anything that happens to have captured the flashy covers of teen magazines and shallow entertainment sites, this product will likely be reviling and distasteful. Fans will love it.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is presented in 1080p High Definition framed at 1.78:1. The footage appears to have been filmed with a combination of digital cameras – creating a vibrant and crisp image of extraordinary detail, and 35mm – mainly from fan perspectives with a distinctly film-like image and the grain to boot. This is a fantastic transfer. The colors pop off the screen, whites almost glow, and during the laser-supported concert lighting – and falling confetti – every element can be distinguished. The level of detail is superb, and despite this blu-ray release not bring home the 3D version that played in many theaters, the image is almost three-dimensional at times. Very, very good.
The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio pulses and rattles with depth and power throughout the running time. Major song performances of Never Say Never, Baby, and My Worlds fill the full spectrum of speakers – and the guest stars that appear with Justin (Boyz II Men, Jaden Smith, etc), help deliver terrific audio flexing, and the clarity of sound in each of the speakers provide a brilliant audio for this concert film.
The Extras: 2.5 out of 5
Concert Dance-Off (HD): A look at the dance skills of Justin and member of his team.
Favorite Girl (HD): An additional live performance by the ‘Bieb’ from Madison Square Garden
Giving Back (HD): This is essentially an extended scene where Justin Bieber sends fans into a frenzy when they are given free tickets to his concert.
R.I.P. Hair Flip (HD): Sadly, the story of Justin cutting his hair made news – and this is the footage of that special event.
As the crowd reacts to the pop sensation – belting out his Never Say Never hit – with smiles on their faces, mothers swinging gleefully with the very young in arms, and all bouncing happily to the beat – it is immediately apparent that this stuff is good. It isn’t for me – I am the wrong demographic, with different musical tastes and vastly different wants and desires from what I watch – but there is no denying that for fans (often referred to as Beliebers) and those in the right demographic, this is perfect stuff.
If he can keep his head, pull back on the pop-culture saturation, and continue to grow as an artist with meaningful introspection, there is no reason he cannot move past the ‘haters’ – the kind of people that flooded this films IMDB user reviews with nonsense like “I'm 18 [year old] guy and I have never liked Bieber and I really cannot understand why critics have actually liked this movie and say it's good for families, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM” and “I just hate his music and I have never liked his singing either.”
Are there times during these 100+ minutes that seem overly self-indulgent? Certainly. Does the film become preoccupied with surfeit flash and the tease of fully embraced musical numbers? Absolutely. But this film was designed specifically to appeal to teen and pre-teen girls, offering up behind the concert scene glimpses of their crush acting playfully, presenting himself as a likeable guy, and performing actively in front of an adoring crowd – and in that, it is a success.
Overall 3.5 out of 5