This Week at the Movies: “Never Say Never”

This Week at the Movies: Never Say Never

Thomas Wiley

To Bieb or not to Bieb: that is the question, wheth­er ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the bangs and flow of outrageous hair, or to stand against a sea of scream­ing woman-child, and in opposing them… but wait, there’s no opposing what can’t be stopped.

The Bieb is Justin Bieber. J.B. Think R. Kelly singing “I belieb I can fly.”

He has sung for President Obama on multiple oc­casions. His music can be heard wafting across campus as it’s kicking out of a certain fraternity’s speakers on many a Saturday. And then there’s his hip-hop danc­ing in miniature, the legions of fans and, finally, the magical hair.

Now Never Say Never arrives. Never Say Never is his full-length motion picture that tells the Bieber story as it follows his 2010 concert tour. The film hinges upon the concert at Madison Square Garden. It’s a concert backed-up by his star aura and surprisingly sturdy song catalogue and yet, and here’s where the momentum stops, it’s a musical performance undermined by a boy who’s too short for the mic.

It takes more than a star to steal the stage, or make a movie. He’s got the hair, which in the film is flourished in a Garnier Fructis commercial-style slow-mo segment. He has pulled in his devout female followers with the promise that he’s their one and only, a promise that he tenderly avows in song after song. Yet, it takes a certain gravitas to command a stage and that’s something Mr. Bieber is missing. While the ancient Mick Jagger lit up the stage at the Grammy’s on Sunday night (“Mick Jagger is crazy fresh!!! #OGSWAG,” Kanye West wrote on Twitter), young Bieber is still learn­ing—he is not yet able to summon the crazy fresh. He doesn’t sing greater than a purr. In terms of stage persona, he shifts between young Romeo and a bobble-headed kid.

If anything, the movie makes the case that J.B. swag may be making ground on the O.G. swag. In Never Say Never, the fuzzy family video-reels from Canada show a kid dedicated to the performer’s craft, honing drum skills and competing in talent shows from when he can barely walk. He also is shown in the studio confidently swapping vocals with Usher and singing unusually well on other occasions—in a casual setting he is finally a real singer. Laugh him off, but the boy’s got something.

He is not particularly self-aware as a musical artist. The film shows that he is most intent just on perform­ing and being a teenager who enjoys his free time and friends. We are told that after considering Michael Jackson’s childhood lost to stardom, Bieber told his manager, “Don’t let that happen to me.”

As he is holding onto his own childhood, he has made himself an integral part of many other child­hoods. For his young female (and possibly some male) fans, the Bieber Fever is a chronic disease. This is where this pop star is his most infectious. At his final Madison Square Garden concert, during a performance of “One Less Lonely Girl,” Bieber calls a fan to the stage for the standard ritual of the serenade to a female fan. Usher himself, the svelte mentor, caught some attention for doing just this a couple months ago when a particularly spunky fan kicked him in the face during this set piece. Bieber got no such sass from his admirer. With his promise of “I’m going to put you first,” the girl was under his spell. And that’s the J.B. swag.

So ladies, get your girls. Gents, bring your brethren, in packs. And go down to Hamilton Movie Theater for the full J.B. experience. Or don’t. “Baby” off Youtube with the speakers hooked up should do just fine.