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The work of a sleep-deprived public relations campaign crew
Justin Bieber is one of the youngest and hottest commodities in the world today. This much we already know. He is also one of the most successful artists of the last few years. This much we also know. This information has been pretty well summarized through news reports, interviews, the Top 40 radio stations, and Justin Bieber's 2010 concert/biopic Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Not a lot has changed in the last three years; Bieber has gotten older, his popularity is still astronomical, his fanbase has been loyal and nine miles past rabid, and his music continues to top charts and gain airplay.
With all this in mind, why did we need Justin Bieber's Believe, a sequel to Never Say Never, to tell us such information again? The film comes branded with the idea that we'll hear the real story behind the star, but I felt that all I was hearing was the around-the-clock manipulation and manufacturing of a sleep-deprived public relations campaign crew working to keep this young star relevant.
"I don't love him, I don't hate him, I respect him" were the words I used to describe Bieber in my review of Never Say Never, which has gone on to be my most-hated review on IMDb, with numerous negative reception simply because I didn't give the film a dismal rating since the film had something to do with Bieber. I stand by my review for the film, for I found it to be occasionally entertaining, somewhat insightful, and an interesting time capsule for a pop star who had gone on to be an explosive success so early in his career. Since Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, however, my opinion has changed of the star. Judging by the likes of his behavior from drunk-driving, spitting on fans, urinating in public, and so on, it's clear that the real Bieber is starting to get out there and the real Bieber seems to be an egomaniac feeding off the fame of his adoring fans, who sob when gifted tickets to his shows and tattoo his face on their quadriceps.
The Bieber brewing now seems to be one of the most ungrateful people to come out of the music industry in quite some time, and for that matter, it was difficult to approach Justin Bieber's Believe with an open mind. Putting aside all prejudices and looking to enjoy another entry into the new artist promotional tool of concert films/biopics, I settled in to watch Justin Bieber's Believe, hoping that its tagline "Beyond the headlines, beyond the spotlights lies the real story" may have some truth and substance. Unfortunately, this is about as bland and hagiographic as concert/biopics can get.
The film continues to feed us the tired idea that Bieber is growing up and getting older and his music is getting more mature, like his fanbase (both statements I can't believe with Bieber still cranking out songs like "As Long as You Love Me," "One Love," and "Thought of You" and his fanbase still falling for the same, repackaged lyrics to a different melody), as well as showing the production and release of his latest album Believe and the corresponding tour. Scenes detail the search for a choreographed dancers, Bieber's team commenting on his so-called "maturity," how anybody who criticizes him and wants to see him fail is a "hater" that Bieber will rise above, and Bieber's interaction with his fanbase.
The most endearing moment of Justin Bieber's Believe comes about halfway through, when we are greeted with Avalanna Routh, a six-year-old girl suffering from brain cancer who adores Justin Bieber more than life itself, it seems. She resorts to having a staged wedding in the hospital with a cardboard cutout of Bieber, and is known by the name of "Mrs. Bieber" to the hospital staff and patients. Bieber, or likely his PR group, caught wind of this and allowed him to reach out to the young girl, spend a few days with her playing board games, watching TV, and just hanging out, and even bringing her on-stage for one of the "Believe" shows to serenade her and treat her like a princess. Subsequently, Routh's condition worsened and she was dead before the end of the tour, with one show happening just three or four days after her death in September 2013. Bieber performed his hit "One Less Lonely Girl" to a slideshow montage of her on the enormous electronic screen behind him, with his back turned to the audience, before completing the song and sitting down and sobbing.
Those moments feel genuine. The moments where Bieber's managers and mentors Scooter Braun and Usher discuss his growing maturity and where Bieber addresses the "haters" but cleverly evades specific instances in his life that caused major controversy do not. As authentic as the film wants to claim it is, key issues are never addressed and inexcusable behavior is never acknowledged or justified either. And being that the film is predicated off of the claim of cutting through all the nonsense to address the truth, it's sad to admit this is the case with the film.
As expected, the glitz, glamor, and decor of Bieber's concerts are marvelous, with choreographers, dancers, and special effects artists doing terrific and daring things, and Bieber always seems to be on-point with his dance moves and vocals. However, Justin Bieber's Believe is a needless film. We've seen all this before and this sequel serves as nothing but a tired (and, at times, very phony) reiteration of prior knowledge. A third film and I'll be convinced I'm experiencing a sporadic Groundhog Day with Justin Bieber.
Starring: Justin Bieber, Scooter Braun, Usher Raymond IV, and Jon M. Chu. Directed by: Jon M. Chu.
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