In a way, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the best use of 3D technology that I’ve seen all year. If you are a tween girl, what’s the only thing better than Bieber? All together now: Bieber in 3D. And the movie takes full advantage of that fact, having our pint-sized heartthrob pump his fist at the audience, practically shimmy onto our laps, and, in one inspired moment, just stand there, in all his 3D glory, flipping his shiny, shiny hair.
Despite its silly, James Bond-esque title, Never Say Never is actually pretty good: part concert film/part Behind-the-Music-style biopic. In many ways, Bieber was our first true YouTube-era superstar. The film cleverly starts by showing him among other YouTube memes: There’s sneezing panda, there’s scared kitty cat, and there’s a pubescent cutie-patootie singing Chris Brown songs in his bedroom. OMG, indeed.
Turns out that while the talented, clean cut Bieber seems to have been created in a teen idol lab, he was, in fact, raised in Ontario by his single mother and doting grandparents. He received a toy drum when he was 5 or 6 and got so good at it, he graduated to a real drum kit. Eventually, he learned piano and guitar and started busking on the street.
“This kid’s going to be famous one day,” a background voice is heard saying on a fuzzy video of the young Biebs performing in town square. If only that anonymous bystander had been able to invest in his hunch.
It was a young A&R guy from Atlanta named Scooter Braun (for reference, he looks a bit like a Ferris-Bueller-era Matthew Broderick) who did invest in his hunch. He saw the videos Bieber had posted to YouTube and became, in his own words, “obsessed” with them. Not only was this kid good, but he already had a built in following. But unbelievably, the idea of discovering talent on YouTube (now downright commonplace) was so unusual at the time, it took a while for Bieber to get signed. (It helped that Braun plopped young Bieber in front of Usher, who immediately recognized the kid’s potential. Game knows game, as they say in sports.)
Of course, the film plays like an advertisement for the Bieber brand (and damned if I didn’t cry during a montage of tween girls and their moms getting surprised with free tickets to the show) but it also documents a true phenomenon of our times. Thanks to the power of Twitter and YouTube, what took, say, a group like ’N Sync four years to accomplish, Justin Bieber did at breakneck speed. From his bedroom to a sold out Madison Square Garden in a little over a year. Wowsa.
Now if only his songs were a little better . . .