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Justin Bieber: Never Say Never DVD Review

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never movie poster Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Theatrical Release: February 11, 2011 / Running Time: 105 Minutes (Original Theatrical Cut) / Rating: G

Director: John M. Chu / Tagline: Find Out What's Possible If You Never Give Up.

Performers: Justin Bieber, Boyz II Men, Miley Cyrus, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher / Other Featured Cast: Pattie Mallette, Diane Dale, Bruce Dale, Martin Butler, Ryan Butler, Nathan McKay, Ryan Good, Allison Kaye, Carin Morris, Dan Kanter, Scrappy Stassen, Kenny Hamilton, Scooter Braun, Mama Jan Smith, Jeremy Bieber, Chaz Somers, Kim Booker, Kristen Hawley, L.A. Reid, Snoop Dogg, Randy Phillips

Songs (performed by Justin Bieber unless otherwise noted): "With You", "Love Me (Lovefool)", Jonathan Sadoff - "O Canada", "Happy Birthday to You", "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", "Bigger", "Baby", Justin Bieber & Boyz II Men - "U Smile", Justin Bieber & Sean Kingston - "Eenie Meenie", "Refine Me", "Undo Me", "3 AM", "Fallin'", "Respect", "So Sick of Love Songs", "Runaway Love", "U Got It Bad", "I'll Be", Noah Lebenzon - "Jump Start", "Bootylicious", "Common Denominator", "One Time", Etta James - "At Last", Kevin McKeever - "In the Hall of the Mountain King", Justin Bieber & Usher - "Somebody to Love", "That Should Be Me", "One Less Lonely Girl", Justin Bieber & Jaden Smith - "Never Say Never", "Never Let You Go", Justin Bieber & Miley Cyrus - "Overboard", Joshua Bass & Isaac Hasson - "Zero Days", "Down to Earth", Justin Bieber & Ludacris - "Baby", "Born to Be Somebody"

Buy Justin Bieber: Never Say Never from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy


It feels a bit premature to tell the life story of an alive and well 17-year-old, but Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is striking while the iron is hot. And the iron is definitely hot.
Bieber presently seems to rank as one of the world's most famous and popular entertainers. His fan base is almost entirely female and under the age of about 16, but as Twilight has proven, there is no shortage of young females who can be passionate and loyal.

Such girls are put on camera in the more interesting parts of Never Say Never, making this documentary as much about tween/teen fandom as about the object of their obsessions. I imagine many of those captured here singing Bieber's songs and his praises will be embarrassed by their devotion in the not too distant future, their appreciation already looking fickle and frivolous to someone not under the young singer's spell. As they cite the things they like about this Canadian boy (his hair, his laugh), it is clear that much of Bieber's appeal stems from his unthreatening, underage good looks, which made him the cover boy of Love magazine's Androgyny Issue.

Taking his place between 2Pac and Bart Simpson, a young Justin Bieber covers Chris Brown's "With You" in one of his earliest YouTube videos (viewed over 30 million times to date). In every city, hordes of Beliebers gather to show their appreciation for Justin Bieber with customized clothing and poster board.

Never Say Never charts Bieber's rise to international fame, a journey that took about two years from when his mother began uploading to YouTube videos of him performing at a local signing competition (and placing second). Born in 1994 to unwed 17-year-old Ontarian Pattie Mallette, Bieber's humble beginnings are liberally documented. The boy took to music at a young age, drumming for and impressing Mom's band friends who would evidently jam in his presence. Home movies not unlike those of most '90s babies assume meaning as a preview of what is to come.

The film makes clear that Atlanta-based manager Scooter Braun, the film's top-billed producer (Bieber himself is second), is a hero for discovering Bieber (through a friend's YouTube link e-mail), pursuing him, and believing in him enough to make him a legend. With vigor, 29-year-old Braun recalls the mild resistance faced in an industry not receptive to prepubescent pop, at least not without Nickelodeon or Disney to launch a multimedia assault.

And yet with hard work and a killer smile, the Biebs made it big, getting his name out in radio interviews and performances. Never Say Never offers a sampling of TV appearances from around the globe (mostly America), while teachers, family members, and friends jog their memories back as far as three years to recall his unremarkable walk to the top.

Just a normal teenaged boy offstage, Justin Bieber shows off his basketball skills for the camera in a casual gym visit with both of his Stratford, Ontario friends. Miley Cyrus shows up in age-appropriate knee-high leather boots and minidress to pass the torch of tween girl obsession to Justin Bieber.

There is no question that the "YouTube" in "YouTube celebrity" has been dropped, as this documentary captures the excitement leading up to Bieber's sold-out August 31, 2010 Madison Square Garden concert two months into his My World Tour, which glimpsed-at riots and stage stormings have preceded.

The behind-the-scenes access afforded this film captures Bieber being Bieber: shaving, warming up, goofing around with his crew and two hometown friends. Even captured in the very best light, Bieber can't avoid looking like a spoiled brat, surrounded by those working hard to keep him happy and loved. Testifying to his prowess are several musicians who have gotten swept up in the Bieber Fever.
Usher is established as his champion, despite blowing him off in their recalled first meeting. Miley Cyrus and Snoop Dogg weigh in on his success. Cyrus and Hollywood royalty Jaden Smith team up with Bieber for duets, the latter rapping on the subtitular song penned for The Karate Kid. '90s chart-toppers Boyz II Men are reduced to backup harmonizing for Bieber, who with suspiciously little sincerity claims he's honored by their support.

It's clear from the start that the film will culminate with the Madison Square Garden performance. Despite regular excerpts from it, the concert is purportedly in question due to the overblown drama of a sore throat. Bieber is examined by a New York doctor whose cabinets are lined with pop star photos (celebrity patients?) and whose final worry is if he's prescribed enough medicine. Concerned tweets over Bieber's strained vocal cords fill the screen. A performance in Syracuse scheduled for two days before the Manhattan show even gets postponed, to Bieber's soft-spoken dismay.

Still, the MSG concert goes off without a hitch, as the girls in the audience soak up the atmosphere, their hearts full of joy and unrequited love. The music itself, which is conspicuously not analyzed or even discussed in the film, warrants very little comment from this grown-up male. The mushy puppy love anthems are inoffensive and bland, though it's easier to comprehend them being embraced by the masses than some of his less catchy and less adored contemporaries. The concert and film conclude with an energetic and explosive encore of "Baby", the biggest single from Bieber's My World 2.0 album.

The film is directed by John Chu, the young man who helmed both Step Up sequels, replaced An Inconvenient Truth's attached Davis Guggenheim here, and has subsequently been tapped by Paramount Pictures to direct G.I. Joe: Cobra Strikes for summer 2012 release.

Their awkward first meeting long behind them, Justin Bieber and Usher finish their song "Somebody to Love" back-to-back to see who's taller. (Usher is.) Justin Bieber returns on stage for the firework-backed, Ludacris-featuring finale "Baby."

Never Say Never had two kindred films to whom its release was sure to be compared. Like Disney's hit 2008 Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert and much less successful 2009 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, Bieber's film opened in the less competitive month of February boasting premium-priced 3D exhibition. Unlike those films, though, Never Say Never was also released in standard two dimensions with no untruthful "one-week only" sales gimmick. Bieber's flick was the second widest concert movie on record, trailing only Michael Jackson's This is It.
Watch young Bieber plays drums in this clip from the movie:
Never Say Never would narrowly eclipse the domestic earnings of that posthumous 2009 release, grossing just over $73 million in North America, with international engagements bringing it close to the $100 M mark worldwide. Helping the Bieber movie do that: two weeks into its run, a re-edited version, subtitled Director's Fan Cut, supplanted it, losing thirty minutes from the original cut and gaining forty minutes of previously unseen footage.

If that alternate edit felt like a shameless ploy to ensure those affiliated with Bieber financial security beyond his predictably short-lived fame, it does so even more on home video, where DVD and Blu-ray only present the original theatrical cut and neither format recreating the 3D enhancements of theatrical screenings. Clearly, both 3D and the extended cut are being saved for later, a strategy less than forgivable with repeat home video business making little sense.

Nevertheless, for those who can't foresee those plans, those who prefer the original theatrical cut (which could conceivably be left off the inevitable upgrade), and those who can't wait to revisit Justin Bieber's first movie again and again, Never Say Never is released this Friday on DVD and in a 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. We look at the former here.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: May 13, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Purple Keepcase
Also available in Blu-ray Disc + DVD + Digital Copy Combo ($39.99 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never culls footage from a variety of sources, some of them low-resolution home movies. Understandably, that adds up to a mixed bag picture and sound wise. But the Madison Square Garden concert footage looks terrific, filling the 1.78:1 widescreen frame with nary an imperfection. Expectedly, music breathes life into the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Unfortunately, it's a little too much life; the music is mixed much louder than the dialogue, requiring a lot of messing with volume levels on the remote control. Other than that annoying discrepancy, the audio is pleasing, Bieber's own sound notwithstanding.

Justin Bieber's dancers strut their stuff in the "Concert Dance Off" bonus feature. Justin Bieber's descending heart performance of "Favorite Girl" is the only director's fan cut addition preserved here.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Never Say Never is joined by a modest collection of four short bonus features.

"Concert Dance Off" (2:55) lets Bieber introduce his dancers, each of whom shows off some moves to wild applause, concluding with Bieber himself briefly grooving.

"Favorite Girl" (2:00) is a song performance from the extended director's fan cut.

The world would never be the same. Justin Bieber's signature locks are gone but not forgotten, getting memorialized in the tender haircut short "R.I.P. Hair Flip." Leaving their wallet and ticket in a cab works out in these girls' favor as Bieber road manager/stylist Ryan Good gives them even better tickets for free.

"R.I.P. Hair Flip" (2:55) shows us clips of Bieber's historic February 2011 haircut that bid farewell to his signature look.

Expanding upon a scene from the movie, "Giving Back" (7:50) follows Bieber entourage members (and his parents)
as they hand out tickets or upgrades to fans who would otherwise be shut out or far away. How nice!

The menu's "Previews" listing plays ads for "The LXD" and Mean Girls 2, before repeating the four items which play automatically at disc insertion: theatrical trailers for Thor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Super 8 and a DVD promo for "Victorious": Season One, Volume One.

The main menu barely animates elements as the crowd chants "Justin! Justin! Justin!" The other menus are silent and static.

The DVD boasts no slipcover or fancy disc art, but it does arrive in a purple keepcase, one color (Bieber's favorite) my collection had previously been lacking. Taking a page from Willy Wonka's playbook, Paramount has randomly inserted a purple ticket into 500 random copies of the Blu-ray and DVD editions, which can be redeemed for a 5"x7" film cell personally signed by Justin Bieber and an exclusive T-shirt.

Nursing his strained vocal cords back to health, Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) tweets an appreciative update to his millions of followers.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

At least Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is more than a concert film, doubling as an explanation of this Canadian boy's sudden rise to fame. Lively and entertaining, it's not bad as far as documentaries go, but its subject matter is ridiculous and will seem so to everyone but starstruck young girls.

Paramount's DVD offers a solid presentation of the film, but only its original theatrical cut. That move seems designed to further exploit the fervor that surrounds Bieber, encouraging fans to buy it now and again with the Director's Fan Cut, 3D enhancements, and exclusive bonus features. My advice is to buy neither and see if this Bieber thing isn't just the fad it seems so certain to be. Of course, if you've got a "Bielieber" at home, such rational thought will not fly. Girls who this makes happy, more power to you. But I think you'll find that even the Twilight movies have more enduring value.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 11, 2011.



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