Thursday, June 20, 2024

Review: Justin Bieber’s Believe Reveals a Well Oiled Machine


I didn’t learn a lot watching Justin Bieber’s “Believe” infomercial, or slightly scripted, well-sculpted “documentary.” Most of what I gleaned was about his manager, Scooter Braun, and the elaborate machine that it takes to keep this cipher ready for 8 to 12 year old young girl fans. I got to see how Bieber’s songs are “constructed” (as opposed to composed), and how his stage show comes together via everyone but him.

You will not find out much about 19 year old Bieber in “Believe.” Many people in the movie sing his praises, but there’s no evidence of any extraordinary skill aside from being able to get progressively more tattooed, and his inability to grow facial hair. You do see, if you hadn’t already, that Bieber wears all his pants so low that his genitals are only noticeable because he tugs at them on stage. This renders him as a pretty eunuch. ( I was worried he’d contracted something.)

I kept thinking that another teen sensation, Elvis Presley, caused an outrage because his pants were too tight. This is not a problem for Justin Bieber. He is almost completely sexless in “Believe,” very much like an anatomy-less Ken doll. He’s the harmless rock star, the anti-Jagger.

For some reason, Bieber and his cohorts think this movie will show “who he really is.” If that’s the case, then he is a blank screen upon which others project their ideas. He is inarticulate and seemingly without his own specific thoughts or philosophies about anything. He is innocuous.

Was he born somewhere? Did the family have roots, a background? Was he discovered? Did that change the family? Did he ever think he might go to school? Does the sight of thousands of small girls shrieking do anything to him? Does he think about it?

At one point Bieber turns to the camera and says, unironically, “I never thought I could be loved so much,” referring to the fans.

The most fun in the movie is watching Scooter Braun, the missing Weinstein brother, go outside at shows and tease girls about getting seats, ultimately giving them the best tickets of the night. Braun is the story in this movie. I’ve never seen a manager so high profile since David Geffen. Long after Bieber is gone, Scooter Braun is going to be around.

There is also a creepy segment– unintended — about Bieber and a six year old girl who’s dying and calls him her “husband.” Many may find this uplifting. I found it skeevy.

None of this is to say that Bieber doesn’t have talent. He’s shown just at the beginning and end of the movie playing a nice tune on the piano. He is also a competent drummer. His voice sounds thin, but that’s because the material is so threadbare. There may be something here besides marketing. But “Believe” doesn’t believe it.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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