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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

May 13th, 2011

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

I don't think I've ever heard a Justin Bieber song in my life. I might be the only person on the planet able to make that claim. Because of this, I go into this documentary / concert film with more of a sense of curiosity than anything else. Can Justin Bieber live up to the hype?

The Movie

The film begins with a documentary segment about Justin Bieber's childhood and how he lived with his mother, a single parent, and spent a lot of time with his grandparents. We learn about his displays of early musical talent, which comes very close to being interesting. The behind-the-scenes stuff, on the other hand, is less so. Seeing fan after fan after fan scream his praise gets to be a little too much to take. The introductions to the backstage crew are so generic and repetitive that is it wholly ineffectual and we learn nothing of substance. For instance, we are told so-and-so is Justin's bigger brother / sister multiple times. By the time the film's just 15 minutes old, I'm begging to hear a full song so I can judge his music for myself.

When that finally happens, my initial impression was, "Meh." There's too much Autotune and not enough soul for R&B. Some of the lyrics were Facepalm bad. "Shorty is an ennie, meenie, miney, mo, lover." Like I mentioned in my review of Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, I am not part of the target audience for this movie, but I was hoping to be won over by infectious enthusiasm. However, that was not the case here. The music is too polished and too safe and the end result is innocuous and harmless, but also very forgettable. His performances were not energetic or charismatic enough to make a difference. Perhaps because I'm not a teenage girl I'm immune to his charms.

The movie's format doesn't help matters, as we jump between the music, Justin Bieber's present day life, and his pre-fame days. In the early going, so few songs are sung to completion that it is hard to judge the quality of the music. The documentary segments interrupt the flow too often to gauge the energy of his performance. Maybe a straight concert would have been better. Or maybe a straight concert would have highlighted weaknesses more. It's not like he has hours of material to pull from; he's only released one full album so far.

Overall this movie isn't about trying to show people who Justin Bieber is. It's a marketing tool to help spread a brand. Every aspect of the film is designed not to enlighten the view about the subject, but polished to make sure no flaws are visible and keep the story straight. (The talk about his tough rise in the music business is particularly hard to take, given the reality. Justin Bieber could be the poster child for overnight success.) If you are already a massive fan, this is not an issue, but if this is your first experience with the superstar, then you might come away wondering what all the fuss is about.

The Extras

There are not a lot of extras on the DVD. There are two short extended concert scenes, an equally short but much more pointless featurette about the infamous haircut, and a more substantial featurette giving away ticket upgrades to fans. I was expecting more. The Blu-ray doesn't have any additional extras, but it comes with the DVD and a Digital Copy.

As for the technical specs, the video is mixed. The present day footage is fine, while the concert footage is strong. However, a lot of the film is basically clips from home movies, so obviously it's not going to shine on High Definition. Likewise, the audio is mixed. Old home movie material can be hard to hear, the documentary portions of the film are clear but uncomplicated, and it doesn't really shine till we get to the concert. That said, the concert portion of the film really does shine and for most fans it will be worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

Justin Bieber rose to fame on YouTube and now sells out concert venues in record time, mostly to teen and preteen girls. On the other hand, he has more dislikes on YouTube than any other person. After watching Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, I'm equally confused by both reactions. His music is too manufactured to justify the adoration, but too harmless to justify the hate. The movie doesn't do a particularly good job at selling the brand to newcomers, but should please most hardcore fans, who will likely run out and buy the film A.S.A.P., despite the lack of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack.

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Filed under: Video Review, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never