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Posted at 8:55 AM ET, 02/11/2011

'Justin Bieber: Never Say Never': Critics don't completely hate it

By Jen Chaney

Justin Bieber, reaching out and touching you in 3-D. (MTV Films)

It was natural to expect that reviewers wouldn't care for "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." After all, film critics are (supposedly) hardened, crusty, generally over-the-age-of-40 people who don't understand the sublime nuances of "Baby," Bieber memes and combed-forward haircuts. How could they possibly like a 3-D Justin Bieber biopic?

Well, surprise. Some critics are giving the movie positive, or at least halfway decent, reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently possesses a 62 percent fresh rating. Granted, that score drops a bit, to 53 percent, when you filter by "top critics." But still, it's a better average than the reviews yielded for the most recent movies starring Natalie Portman ("No Strings Attached": 52 percent), Anthony Hopkins ("The Rite": 16 percent) and Jennifer Aniston ("Just Go With It": 27 percent).

The Post's David Malitz -- who, for the record, is not hardened, crusty or over 40 -- gives "Never Say Never" 2 1/2 stars.

"'Never Say Never' is sort of like the featured piece of a political nominating convention," he writes. "It’s a fluffy, mildly inspiring, celebration of the hero leading up to his big moment. In this case it’s not potential leadership of the free world, but instead a concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden that is seen as the culmination of a whirlwind couple of years that saw Bieber rise from Canadian YouTube sensation to international heartthrob. It plays to the base, and if it wins over a few newbies, all the better."

Here are a few other choice review bites.

From Sean Daly of the St. Petersburg Times:

"Did I like Never Say Never, which weaves slick 3D concert footage from Madison Square Garden with fun behind-the-scenes tomfoolery and archival footage of Bieber as the cutest baby in the history of babies? Yes, I actually did. As did my 7-year-old daughter, who sat next to her dad and kept shouting, 'Biebs sure does take his shirt off a lot!'"

From Piet Levy of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

"[Director John] Chu shoehorns patronizing footage of Bieber's people giving away tickets to fans and plucking girls to be serenaded onstage. He's telling the story that Bieber's handlers want you to hear. But at least the movie tells a story."

Mike Hale of the New York Times is slightly less of a fan:

"[Chu] points the camera 180 degrees away from the star a fair bit of the time, and that view introduces a queasy note of apprehension into the otherwise wholesome picture. Occasionally you see a fan whose senses are particularly deranged by her love for Mr. Bieber, and you hope that his security team has her picture on file."

The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton is decidedly unimpressed:

"There’s no scrimping on the Bieber here -- we see him serenading onstage, shirtless in the dressing room, in home videos, and in 'candid' hometown visits -- but he’s a curiously vague presence, obscured in the shadow of this monument to his brand."

But Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gives "Never Say Never" a B-plus:

"Justin Bieber: Never Say Never may be the concert film as glorified promotional product, but it captures a genuine youthquake."

Do any of these reviews pique your interest enough to make you consider seeing the Bieber biopic? Or were you already planning to sneak into a matinee while wearing those convenient 3-D glasses as a means to conceal your identity?

By Jen Chaney  | February 11, 2011; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Justin Bieber, Movies, Music  
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Turning 40 in a few months... Will I then be in the "hardened" and "crusty" demographic??

Posted by: kvs71 | February 11, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Father’s – Please take your daughters to this movie!

My 7 year old daughter and I attended the “Never Say Never” 3D Movie Preview on Weds.

To be very honest, I knew nothing about Justin Bieber before attending this movie.
The only thing I knew is that my daughter loves his music and really wanted to see this movie (bought the passes back in December)

The movie was packed. Girls and women of all ages (ranging from 4 to 64)

I was the only Father in the theater. I must say that (at first) that this was somewhat intimidating (but some kind words from some of the Mothers, as they made their way to their seats, validated my reason for being there – for my daughter to watch the story of Justin Bieber (and what a great story it is). One of the mothers called me “Rockin Daddy” which made my day.

I’m not going to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it. But what I can tell you is this:

1. If you love Justin Bieber then you will love this movie. It’s that simple. Well worth the price of admission (your daughters' happiness = priceless)

2. If you don’t know anything about Justin Bieber (like me before I went to the movie) and don’t tap your feet to the beat of some great music….then you have no soul. If you don’t come out of that movie feeling good about Justin Bieber….his wonderful fans and the energy that they collectively generate...….then you don’t have a pulse.

Pure energy - it's electric!

I found myself tapping my feet and feeling good. Mothers and daughters were singing, laughing and waving glow sticks….it was magical. Great story, Great music, Great visuals = a Great time!

My daughter hasn’t stopped talking about the movie (she's still wearing her laminated VIP pass and wants to see the movie again) and she has talked me into taking her to the next Justin Bieber concert that comes to the Md / DC area.

Rockin Daddy is secretly looking forward to seeing it again too. :-)

Never Say Never – Don’t miss it !!!!


Rockin Daddy and Kirsten

Posted by: rockindaddy | February 11, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I’m not going to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it.

Posted by: rockindaddy | February 11, 2011 9:38 AM

I doubt there's much about this movie that could be spoiled!!

Trust me parents out there, there's MUCH worse music your kids could be listening to than Justin Bieber.

I hope he doesn't go the way of a lot of past teen idols, dead, addicted, in jail or on some Celebreality show.

Posted by: wadejg | February 11, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm hardened and crusty and well past 40, and I've never heard any of his music, but I've seen him on tv a few times (Letterman and Daily Show) and he seems to be an OK kid. Probably because he's Canadian.

Posted by: justmike | February 11, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

If I wanted to see childish, narcissistic closet queens in 3D, I'd head to the CPAC convention.

Posted by: htimothyjones1 | February 11, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I intend to see it, but will be watching "Josey and the Pussycats" (Alan Cumming!) immediately beforehand, to get me in the proper mood.

Posted by: TheBoreaucrat | February 11, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I'll admit it, the Bieber is starting to grow on me. He seems like a cool kid, and he's willing to make fun of himself, which is huge. I'll be following his career with interest.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | February 11, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The Bieber "machine" doesn't need my money!

Posted by: benlurken | February 11, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure part of this is expectionation. If you expect to utterly hate it and find out that it is mildly amusing, then you're pleased.

If you go to see the latest shoot-em-up explosion fest and find an actual intriguing plot among the testosterone feed, that improves the movie.

If you go to the latest tearjerker drama and find yourself smiling at quips as well as feeling sad, that improves the movie.

A lot of these reviews amount to "not as bad as I thought it was going to be" which isn't exactly inspiring. I'll pass.

One reason I'd pass is right in that first review " 7-year-old daughter, who sat next to her dad and kept shouting..." Yes, I expect there's a lot of kid and teenager shouting, which is #1 on list of Things I Hate The Most About Going Out To The Movies. Ugh.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | February 11, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Oh Jen, men over 40 understand all too well the comb-forward style of hair. Bieber's hair style is a precocious comb-over.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | February 11, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I gotta say that simply based on seeing Bieber on the Graham Norton Show on BBC America a couple weeks ago, I am in the kid's corner. Norton had the brilliant idea of booking him with John Waters and the result was pretty amazing TV because Bieber seems totally guileless and Waters enjoyed that--especially Bieber's compliments about how much he liked Waters' 1920s porn star moustache.

Posted by: jhpurdy | February 11, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Rockindaddy...Usher? Is that you, Usher?

Posted by: forgetthis | February 11, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The only way I'd see any of this movie is if I fell asleep in front of the television set about a year in the future then I wake up and the Bieber film just happens to be playing. I would only suffer through it long enough to grab the remote and change the channel or turn the TV off completely.

Posted by: SidneyVaught | February 11, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The only way I'd see any of this movie is if I fell asleep in front of the television set about a year in the future then I wake up and the Bieber film just happens to be playing. I would only suffer through it long enough to grab the remote and change the channel or turn the TV off completely.

Posted by: SidneyVaught | February 11, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

If most of the movie is in 2D anyways, can you just go see the 2D version and instead of getting 3D glasses, get a barf bag instead?

Posted by: SidneyVaught | February 11, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

That was some misguided stereotyped, generalized, juvenile statements made about film critics and film criticism in ages--and just plain ridiculous. Is there something wrong with being over 40? No. Actually, if most critics are over 40---GOOD! You need that maturity, experience, education and career background to be a really grounded film critic. Early twentysomething know-it-alls who haven't seen most of film's classic films can't be expected to be respected critics. But if you have studied film, if you have seen many classic films, if you have read dozens of books on film, if you have interviewed people about film, if you have worked on film or talked to people who have worked on film, and if you have studied film extensively, well, then you are indeed an experienced film crtic. And, yes, indeed, that usually occurs by the mid 30s or the 40s. So good for that demographic. As for the equally ridiculous and juvenile suggestion that someone above 40 could not review a film about a teen idol--well, sigh, again, just idiotic. A film is to be judged on its many filmic elements--it makes zero--none--difference if the reviewer knows who the heck the subject is. The real issue is whether it's a good film or not and the quality of its filmic elements--that's what a real critic will judge a film on. Filmic elements--production, direction, writing, acting, editing, cinematography, pacing, timing, storytelling, character development, story arc, character arc, production design, art design, costuming, make-up, affects, musical score, editing, and scores of other basic aspects of filmmaking. It makes zero difference what the age of the reviewer is or whether that reviewer knows about the latest goofball confection flash-in-the-pan Hollywood concoction. None. Stop with the generalizations, please!

Posted by: thefrontpage | February 11, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Thankfully, my girls are too old for the Bieber craze so I don't think we'll have to go see this movie. While I'm sure it's a wonderful, heart-felt movie, I have a problem seeing an auto-biographical movie about a 12-year old. Really?? Has his life really been so hard and/or interesting that it's movie-worthy? I find that very hard to believe. If I want to get the feel for what his (short) life has been like, I'll stay home and watch Toddlers & Tiarras.

Posted by: aktotlykrzy | February 11, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Justin Beiber!! Along with Lindsay Lohan; Lady GaGa; Paris Hilton; Christina Aguillera, and all those "performers" on American idol, the Dumbing Down of America marches on.

Posted by: fregameeate | February 11, 2011 6:47 PM | Report abuse

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