Finding the charm in Justin Bieber’s movie: “Never Say Never”

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

I went all the way with Justin Bieber.

I not only attended the 3-D Director’s Cut (40 minutes longer) of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” but I stayed through the whole thing.

I mean, to the very end. I even saw the sing-along rip-off borrowed from The Beatles’ “The Yellow Submarine.”

As any nine-year-old girl can tell you, the kid’s talented. He’s cute. What I didn’t realize was how hard he worked before teen-dream-ness was thrust upon him.

Yes, he was discovered at 12 on YouTube. And yes, he was transplanted from rural Canada to Atlanta to receive proper, well, handling. But he didn’t spring fully-formed from Usher’s head.

An entrepreneurial type from Connecticut named Scooter Braun (born Scott) had come South to attend Emory. After a mysterious disagreement with his basketball coach, Braun dropped out of college and majored instead in party-planning. Apparently, he got very good at it — good enough to get on speaking terms with power types like Usher.

So, Braun made the connection, sent his Boy Wonder on the road and about a year or two later, he (and Usher) had a teen phenom on their hands.

The movie follows him on the road to his premier at MSG. No, not the stuff you get in a Chinese restaurant, but what the kids (God bless ‘em) now call Madison Square Garden

So, some blood, sweat, and even tears (mostly from fans) were all part of the Birthing of The Biebs. Still, as I said, he comes across as extremely likable and huggable and fan-savvy (in a good way).

The only time I saw him truly thrown was when Jaden Smith (as in Will and Jada Pinkett) shows up for some sort of rehearsal/meet ‘n’ greet. Apparently Jaden, who is initially introduced “a karate expert,” is going to perform a number during the MSG show.

You can see Bieber’s immediate discomfort confronted with a kid who truly was to the manor born (watch his face when Jaden casually mentions his parents might helicopter in to catch the show).

Sure enough, about a day later, our star comes down with a sore throat and has to cancel one pre-MSG concert. He recovers, the show goes on, Jaden does his thing and we can only assume there was a helicopter somewhere in the vicinity.

No telling what will happen to Justin. The prototype that comes to mind, somehow, is Michael Jackson whose tragedy was he wasn’t born an adorable white kid (or at least, Jackson saw that as his tragedy, hence all the insane make-overs and drug use and utimate self-destruction). Jackson spent his entire life wanting to be Peter Pan. Bieber already IS a Peter Pan-type, with his elfin face and boyish bangs (at least, until he cut them).

But as Usher says in the movie, the Biebs won’t be 16 forever. In fact, I think he just turned 17.

The clock is ticking, but we’ll always have “Never Say Never.”

And The Way He Was.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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