Let's get one thing straight, right off the bat. Jon Chu's JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER will not cure disease. It's a bit long (there's a saggy middle section that could have been whipped into better shape) and the central conceit - a build-up to the tween heart-throb's big concert at Madison Square Garden - is, as they say, paper-thin.
Further, most music docs have the benefit of an artist's long history to reflect on, a career and personal arc that includes the ups and downs of year's of hard touring and music biz shenanigans. Halfway through NEVER, I came to the abrupt realization that Justin Bieber's entire career has been shorter than production on my current film.
That said, NEVER SAY NEVER, which had its major film festival debut here at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK after a hugely successful stateside theatrical release (#4 all time), is a film that announces early on that it intends to be much, much better than it has to be. And by the end, the film delivers so many moments of pure, giddy joy that most of the docmakers who saw it (including more than a few repeat viewers) were bouncing through the streets of Sheffield for hours afterward.
I say most, but I did not say all. At least a couple seemed to view the film with hostility and there were a number of others I spoke to later in the evening who openly scoffed at the film. Indeed, check the film's IMDb page and you will see a string of 1-star reviews from folks who hate NEVER SAY NEVER, hate Justin, hate the screaming girls who love him so much.
So why did I and a number of others (who have not, as far as I can tell, taken leave of their senses) fall for this 3-D ode to a 16 year old whose music I did not recognize (nor did I find it particularly catchy)?