Will Jon M. Chu’s New Justin Bieber Doc Be as Great as ‘Never Say Never’?

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What a headline. You’d think this was Tiger Beat or a fansite or something. But the question is a serious one from me, a fan of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, who somehow hadn’t even heard of a follow up from director Jon M. Chu until this week. Deadline reported on Monday that the new film, titled Justin Bieber’s Believe, is finished and screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, though apparently only for select buyers. So, even if I could attend I wouldn’t get to see it (or add it to my list of most anticipated titles at the fest). Chu was covering the pop star’s Believe Tour “under the radar,” but he did give the L.A. Times a scoop on and sneak peek of the film back in April.

Given the disappointing lack of a real narrative in One Direction: This Is Us (see my review), I was already wondering when the next pop music “doc-buster” of this sort would measure up to Never Say Never, which is really the only great one among the bunch of 3D efforts. Might the answer actually be another Bieber film? Although Believe shares a star and director and producer (Bieber manager Scooter Braun), the other notable producers aren’t on board, nor is studio Paramount Pictures. That’s not as much of a deal as the fact that Bieber’s story since that film doesn’t seem very long or substantial. And the singer has gained a bad reputation in recent months. But I appreciate that Chu does see a narrative and main theme here. “It’s almost about a boy becoming an artist rather than a boy’s life,” he told LAT’s Chris Lee. “Because his artistry is his life now.”

It’s probably too bad Bieber is such a part of Believe, so of course it’s not going to focus on any negatives, but I’d love to see a follow-up to Never Say Never that takes us down a darker path while the star enters adulthood and a more mature career and maybe intentionally is going for the bad boy image. It’d be like Attack of the Clones, but real. Young Bieber even looked a bit like young Anakin Skywalker. Seriously, though, one other element of Believe that’s been promised is a direct look at the 19-year-old’s songwriting process, which will remind us that unlike some of the other boy bands and pop acts out there, Bieber is a creative talent as well as a musician.

Other than that, Believe sounds like it will be more of a concert film with other staged parts and just a bit of the candid stuff and likely none of the biographical story and modern music industry and web-media contexts that made Never Say Never so appealing (after all, what more can we see?). I can’t even tell if it’s going to be 3D. Why should I care? I’m not a fan of Bieber, just that one documentary about him. It’s not like I’ve been concerned or curious about any of the many unauthorized Bieber “documentaries” to be found on Amazon. And even with Chu at the helm, it’s not like I care about him as a director for the most part, either. I haven’t seen any Step Up or G.I. Joe movies. I should just accept that Never Say Never was a fluke that captured a phenomenon far more fascinating and significant than most people thought it to be.

Justin Bieber’s Believe does have a U.S. distributor: Open Road Films, which put out the better-than-expected Keanu Reeves-hosted doc Side by Side. But as of now there is no release date.

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