Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
I’m glad that as a member of the press, I “had to” wear the regular black 3D glasses.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/11/2011
Director: Jon Chu
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes


Look out! He wants to give you Bieber Fever!

Let me make one thing clear. I’m not a Justin Bieber fan.

I’m over 30 years-old, I think his singing voice is akin to nails on a chalkboard, and I sort of wish someone would shave his head because I simply can’t stand a style that seems to be more like an alien mass slowly enveloping his skull rather than human hair.

With the target demographic being 9 to 15 year-old girls (or whatever the hell a ‘tween’ is), I had a sneaking suspicion that “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” wasn’t going to be my cup of tea (and I don’t even like tea).

Entering the theater with my 3D glasses in tow (more on that later), I was “greeted” by a chorus of tween girls singing something that by rhythm and cadence could be described as a song. I’m assuming it was one of Justin’s but not being familiar with his catalog of music, I’m just guessing. I was also “excited” to see that most of the crowd seemed to have glowsticks of various colors to go along with their rabid enthusiasm. What the hell had I gotten myself into?

Now, full disclosure, I had hoped this experience would make for a humorous review where I keep calling him Justine and throw in a half-hearted editor’s note at the end stating that “After some fact checking, all references to Justine Bieber should be read as Justin Bieber, as he is genetically male. Sorry for any confusion.”

The proceedings inside the theater weren’t swaying my intentions all that much, aside from a growing fear not to reveal what outlet I wrote for as I seemed to be the only adult male in the audience, and I made sure to sit in a corner of the theater so as not to be fully surrounded by an ever growing mob of Bieber-maniacs (or whatever the hell they call themselves).

As I sat there, amused by my friends laughing at me on Facebook or via text for being there in the first place, I also began to realize that I should have brought industrial-sized ear plugs. Not five minutes would go by between chanting/yelling of some sort, at decibel and octave levels so high I wondered if any permanent damage might be done. The most common exclamations were “Scream if you love Justin Bieber”, “Scream if you want to marry Justin Bieber” and a play on a classic: “When I say Justin, you say Bieber! – Justin! – Bieber! – Justin! – Bieber!”

At this point, the last 0.0001% of me that might ever want to bring a kid into this meshugganah world was completely eradicated. Is there a home vasectomy kit?

Thoughts like these were interrupted when a group of 5 or 6 young girls came up to me and asked if I’d use their camera to take a picture of the entire audience, getting up in front of everyone and telling them to make a heart gesture while I snapped away. Maybe they figured as possibly the only ‘old man’ in the theater, I was the best choice for such a task. Maybe they just wanted to make sure I wasn’t in the photo.

Whatever the case, I assented to their demands, asking for the audience’s attention and participation in this group photo. Well, it took absolutely no arm twisting as the assembled masses quickly began to shout, wave their glowsticks and make that heart gesture I’d become so familiar with before the night was over with (it’s some damned thing Justin and his fans do … A LOT). A few terribly taken pictures later (Pro-Tip: Auto focus and flash on a crowd in a dimly lit theater isn’t the optimal setting), I was able to retreat back to my seat … where I received even more good natured and deserved ribbing from friends via social networking and texts.

As the start of the show began to draw near, the girls made sure to call out how many minutes were left until the movie began. Once we were under a minute, the last thirty seconds got a countdown and then the most ear-shattering, blood-curdling scream was let out upon the completion of those final ticks. The acoustics in the theater are clearly responsive as the decibel level probably ranked somewhere near a 747 taking off and covering my ears for protection while praying to every deity I knew was all I could do.

Of course, the movie did not start exactly on time and once the audience caught on to it, they quickly began chanting “Justin! Justin! Justin!” until thankfully after only half a minute or so, the lights began to dim. This led to another bout of traumatizingly loud screaming … then the title credits began (more screaming) … then Justin appeared on screen (a lot more screaming) … you get the picture (but thankfully not the audio).

This cycle of screaming whenever the boy-wonder came on-screen rarely waned though I appreciated pockets of fans shouting back to “shut up” because large chunks of on-screen conversations were lost due to continued squealing. I’m not quite sure if some of these girls didn’t realize that even though it was in 3D, Justin couldn’t actually hear them.

And speaking of 3D, I doubt it comes as any surprise that it’s not very good. I’d say 85% of the film is in 2D anyway but what attempts at the third dimension there are fail to make that extra cash you have to spend worth it. That is, of course, if you’re like me and not a fan of Justin Bieber. But every time Justin reached out towards the audience in poorly realized 3D, the screaming started back up again. The rational and unobsessed folks in the crowd don’t need it but denying these tweens the notion of being that much closer to Justin might actually kill them so take that for what you will.

From a filmmaking aspect, director Jon Chu mostly gets things right. What’s there to screw up anyway? It’s a concert film / biography. The only true missteps lay in trying to build tension around Justin losing his voice as the MSG show approached. Any doubt the show wouldn’t happen are erased simply because nearly every live arena performance in the entire film, from beginning to end, takes place AT Madison Square Garden. But judging by the crowd reaction, I don’t think any of the core demo seemed to notice this slight disingenuity.

The very strange thing that happened as the film was drawing to a close was that my desire to write this review, simply making easy jokes and decrying Justin Beiber as the sixth sign of the apocalypse, began to fade. His voice hadn’t grown on me, it still sounded too nasally and whiny to my ears. His hairstyle hadn’t begun to make sense to me, it’s still some strange amalgamation of a bowl cut, Donald Trump and a Flowbee commercial. But he gained a modicum of respect with me because of his gratitude towards the passionate/obsessed fans that come out to see him wherever he goes and the manner in which he and his support system have seemingly handled his meteoric rise to fame.

Now, that’s not to say I caught Bieber Fever and I still hope the CDC is working on a cure. However, it was fun to see an audience so passionate about something, even if it was Justin Bieber; They sang along to all of the songs, danced in their seats and waved those glowsticks with reckless abandon. Also, I respect public figures who don’t take their fan base for granted and that’s certainly not the case when it comes to Justin and his team. “Never Say Never” is a competently made concert film and gets a 3 out of 5. It answers that question of “Who the hell is this kid and why does anyone’s 13 year-old daughter want to marry him?”

Still, I’m certainly not saying I’d recommend seeing this, as I’m not sure even earplugs would protect chaperoning parents’ ears from significant damage. However, I am willing to stop (at least publicly) making quite so many Bieber jokes because he really is just the latest teenage fad. Maybe his career will continue on and maybe I won’t find his voice so grating once he hits puberty. Maybe not. But I can certainly identify with his fans when I stop to think about the musical artists and actors I was enamored with at their age.

Rather than simply brush off the tweens of today and lament at seemingly bad taste, the mania surrounding Justin is an experience these kids will cherish and possibly be embarrassed about as they get older … but it’s an experience most of us share and who are any of us to deprive them of that?

3 out of 53D Maybe