As a 22 year-old male, I might not be the best person to review Justin Bieber’s Believe. Then again, the more that I think about it, I might actually be the perfect person to be critiquing a film like this, because as someone who recognizes the immense talent this pop star possesses, yet has never once found himself swept up in the hype that is Biebermania, I was able to walk into the film just like I would any other – without bias and with an open mind.
Aimed squarely at the Beliebers, Jon M. Chu’s follow-up to Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is no doubt an exercise in pushing records off store shelves and winning back fans who may have strayed over the years. And the film never tries to hide that fact. Instead, it wears it proudly on its sleeves. Taking some top notch concert footage captured from the singer’s Believe tour and mixing it with candid (yet at times superficial) interviews and a healthy dose of behind the scenes videos, Chu takes on the next leg of Bieber’s journey as we watch him grow as an artist and as an individual.
Besides paying the obligatory fan service and showing off Justin looking as close to human perfection as one could possibly be, Chu’s main focus here is examining how growing up in the spotlight can affect young celebrities and how we shouldn’t always believe what the media presents to us. In Bieber’s case, this is a completely apt angle to explore, as no one has had more media attention in recent years than the Canadian pop star and, unfortunately, not all of it has been very kind.
Thankfully, Chu doesn’t shy away from or sweep anything under the rug, for the most part. He confronts the 19-year-old head on about recent media incidents, the trainwreck that his career can very easily become and just why he wears his pants so low. While he seems sincere in his musings, it’s hard to take what Justin is saying totally to heart. There’s an underlying sense of superficialness to his words, as if he’s reciting a script that was written for him, rather than speaking off the cuff.
Unfortunately, alhough Chu sparks the conversation, he never probes deep enough for audiences to really get inside his subject’s head. Does it really matter though when 99% of the audience is 15-year-old girls who would literally give their life to meet the pop star? Probably not. But for the rest of us, people like myself, it is a bit disappointing. The past few years have been particularly interesting for Justin and I would have loved to of heard more from the singer on some of his more outspoken and outrageous moments that the media has covered.
While Bieber is probably half and half, in terms of being sincere and acting, the remarks from his collaborators are entirely throwaway, as they all paint Justin as some kind of golden boy who can do no wrong, continuously gushing over him throughout the film. There are small exceptions, like when manager Scooter Braun tells us that, over the years, there has been lots of yelling, screaming and crying between himself and his prized possession, but for the most part we are presented with an almost flawless picture of the eponymous singer. People like Usher do their best to convince us that Justin’s just a regular boy trying to navigate a tough industry, and though there is some truth to that, the bias of the subjects being interviewed is very apparent.
Still, there’s enough like about the film and even if you can’t take what everyone’s saying at face value, Chu should be applauded for approaching the whole thing from the right angle and asking some valid questions. He doesn’t dig deep enough, but that’s not as much his fault as it is the people pulling the strings of the Bieber machine. And that’s understandable. A film titled Justin Bieber’s Believe (and produced by Justin and Scooter) is of course going to be fairly slanted in favor of its titular icon, and its main purpose is clearly to repair an image that has been damaged in recent months.
Obviously, the way I view Believe is far different from how most of the people seeing it will. Fans of his will eat it up, and then run back to the theatre to eat it up again. And that’s perfectly fine. Justin Bieber’s Believe is entirely harmless. While the interviews might be a bit hoaky, there are some genuine moments of sincerity here and there, such as a portion of the film that focuses on Justin’s touching relationship with a 6 year-old girl named Avalanna Routh.
Generally speaking, the Biebs seems like a decent person, and as stated at the start of this review, I think he’s unbelievably talented. The way he just controls the stage and absolutely owns the audience during his concerts is astonishing. And Chu captures that impeccably, showing us exactly why this young man is a such a star and turning every bit of performance footage into something that you just can’t take your eyes off of. Justin has a true magnetism to him and the way that Jon M. Chu shoots the concert portion, mixed with the superb production values, really highlights that.
At the end of the day, we all realize that this is nothing more than a bit of a propaganda piece, meant to sell more records and convert “atheists” in to Beliebers. Still, there’s no denying that Chu knows his target audience well and hits all the right chords with this film. If nothing else, Justin Bieber’s Believe is a brief, and rather enjoyable trip through an exciting period in the singer’s life that while earnest in its attempt, ultimately fails to give us anything to sink our teeth into. But the Beliebers won’t care about that, will they?