I knew very little about the feather-haired heartthrob Justin Bieber before I saw his movie. My 9-year-old daughter, Emily, was a mild fan. Maybe she had two songs by him on her iTouch and the JB poster she got in a box of Valentines never made it to her wall. So, I was just as surprised as her whenI suggested we see the 16-year- old's new movie on our girls' night out.
I'd heard good things about it. The day before I ran into a mom from my kids' school who I knew had seen a sneak peek on Thursday night with her daughters and I asked her, "Well, how was The Bieb? Did your girls like it?" She smiled and said, "Angie cried through the whole thing." *Pfft* We both laughed at the idea of a 12-year-old girl crying during a Justin Bieber movie.
Cut to me. Next night. Half-hour into Justin Bieber's 3-D movie "Justin Bieber–Never Say Never" at the Irvine Spectrum as Emily turns to me and asked, not even attempting to hide her disdain, "Mom, are you crying?" I certainly was, and downright thankful for those dark 3-D glasses that hid (mostly) my tear from the throngs of screaming teenage girls in the theatre audience. I wasn't "I love you Justin!!" crying (in my defense), but I'm telling you this movie is surprisingly touching, with lots of heartfelt stories and, well, basically a real tear-jerker.
As an adult, especially as a mom, I experienced the story of Justin Bieber in a different way than the masses of brace-faced, panting tweens who are interviewed throughout the entire flick. The movie begins with young Justin, baby Justin, as he's raised by his teenage, single mom with the help of her unabashedly adorable parents and the support of their local church. When his mom comes on the screen the first thing I thought was how jaw droppingly young she is. As she tells the story of their early life together–how she wanted to raise her son right–it's moving and feels sincere. Wow. I mean she is young. I doubt you if you say you weren't digging in your purse for a tissue at that point.
The next thing that struck me was how much talent is wrapped up in this squirrelly sixteen-year-old. He's playing drums, the guitar, the piano…and that voice. I know he gets the Tiger Beat brush off from a lot of people but he's no Shaun Cassidy, this kid's got it going on in the gifted department and it's played out through the whole movie.
Then there's the Rocky component; the underdog, the manager who believed in him, the seemly insurmountable dream, the characters who surround him. This movie has all that too, except "Yo Adrian" is just replaced by a lot of hair flipping.
His manager tells his story as if he's still in some sort of daze, not quite believing himself what a success this kid has become. Glassy eyed he talks about finding Justin on YouTube, flying him to Georgia "on my dime" and introducing him to Usher. It's all too much for even him to take in. It was refreshing and inspiring to watch someone in his position talk about his success with such humble candor. This was more of a throat tightening moment, though, not a full on bawl, but if you're tittering on the edge of tears, this is surely enough to tip the scale.
Now, for the real crying. There were loads of touching moments; yes, some just silly, like when they picked a girl out of the audience to be JB's "Lonely Girl" on stage. Fine. I got all choked up. Her friends were crying. She was crying. I was crying. Emily was…rolling her eyes and scooting to the far side of her chair. But then the more serious moments that would breeze over the heads of the squealers and gigglers were there too. When Justin's grandfather talks about the day Justin and his mom leave for Georgia…seeing the gate close behind them at the airport….knowing it was the end of something and the beginning of something else…then grandpa gets chocked up at the thought of it…wait…I need a minute…
I'll admit shooting it in 3-D seemed like a bit of a stretch (given the extra cost), but it was worth it to watch all the young girls in the packed theatre stretch out their hand to touch Justin's when he sang, "Thought you'd always be mine." Money well-spent I say. It was a well-crafted movie that will hold the test of time. Not like our teen idol movies. I mean, have you seen Purple Rain as an adult? Enough to make doves cry, really. It's that bad.
This movie had heart and not just the heart that Justin sat it as it swirled above the audience and he sang "Baby." I mean heart, like it is a real story about a real kid who made it and that made me, as a mom, hope he turns out okay. I'm routing for him. At the end there's a montage of picture of Justin Bieber as a little boy as his grandfather talks about him. He say (paraphrasing here): "We just hope the values we taught him growing up–to be a man of character–will carry him through all this."
After it was all over Emily and I were ardent and eternal Justin Bieber fans. "That was awesome," Emily said as we ditched our glasses into the bin. "It really was wasn't it?" I ask. In the bathroom all the girls who just saw the film were really committed to making it a Bieber bender by immediately plugging into their MP3s and singing his songs. We joined in as we did our business and walked out happy and truly glad we shelled out $29 to see "Never Say Never " instead of "Gnomeo and Juliet."
I recommend you go, take the kids, or, if you don't have kids, get a loaner kid and take them. I know I should be more ashamed of being such a sucker for the whole whoopla of The Bieb, but I just have gotten to the point in my life where I just don't care–except it was monumentally embarrassing for Em.
When we got home Emily dug out her Justin Bieber poster and asked if I thought she should put it up in her room. "Yeah, sure, go ahead," I told her. Her first teen idol poster in her room. My little girls has a boy poster now hanging in her room…wait…I need a minute.