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Overall Rating
2.13

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad87.5%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Katy Perry: Part of Me
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by Peter Sobczynski

"More Like A Wet Squib Than A Firework"
2 stars

For a long time, rock concert documentaries were cheaply produced throwaways consisting almost entirely of artless closeups of singers going through their greatest hits with the occasional cutaways to adoring audience members or slack-jawed bass players. Oh sure, you had the occasional great rock film that centered on a particular event ("Woodstock," and "The Last Waltz" being the best of the bunch) or exceptionally exciting performer (such as the Talking Heads film "Stop Making Sense," the incisive "Madonna: Truth or Dare" or the Rolling Stones epic "Shine a Light") but for the most part, these films were usually featured on the once-burgeoning midnight movie circuit and were aimed at the most hardcore fans and no one else. In 2008, however, the surprise smash success of a Hannah Montana concert film demonstrated that pop music acts, especially those with a large fan base among youngsters, could rake in huge amounts of money with an inexpensively produced concert documentary (though you will never hear the word "documentary" in the publicity), especially if it also features the miracle of 3-D to enhance both the experience and the ticket prices, and so the last few years have seen acts such as the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber and the cast of "Glee" trying their luck on the big screen with varying degrees of success (the Bieber effort was a hit but the ones featuring "Glee" and the Jonas Brothers failed to have much impact).

With "Katy Perry: Part of Me," the enormously successful singer takes her first big stab at crossover success (unless you count her voiceover work in "The Smurfs" and God help you if you do) with her own rockumentary and while there is no mistaking the film for anything other than a naked cash grab, there was at least some reason to believe that it might have been something better than the lazily-made likes of "Glee 3-D." For starters, her fusing of the key personality traits of the two great pop princesses of the Eighties--the up-front sexiness of Madonna and the cheerful silliness of Cyndi Lauper--is undeniably appealing and she has an uncanny ability to craft gorgeously catchy pieces of ear candy that still manages to retain its flavor even after you have heard them approximately a half-billion times each. More importantly, she has somehow managed to maintain a certain down-to-earth charm, or at least the simulacrum of same, that allows her to come across as more likable and relatable than most of the current parade of pop stars--unlike the likes of Beyonce or Rihanna, one can almost imagine running into her at the local shopping mall. Therefore, it comes as a shock to discover that her film is nothing more than a slapdash bit of self-aggrandizement that claims to display the singer blemishes and all but which turns out to be as heavily Clearasiled as its target audience--a piece of product that clearly wants to be the modern-day "Truth or Dare" but which winds up coming across as something closer to "Rattle & Hum" without the quiet humility.

The film is essentially a behind-the-scenes look at Perry as she sets out on her "California Dreams" concert tour, a world-wide jaunt designed to promote "Teenage Dream," her eagerly anticipated sophomore album and her shot at proving that the success of her debut "One of the Boys" and her monster hit single "I Kissed a Girl" were not simply flukes. As she journeys across the globe while racking up record-breaking sales (eventually becoming the first person to have five #1 singles off of the same album) performing her wildly gaudy revue--a cotton candy-hued fantasia featuring elaborate choreography, special effects and a seemingly endless line of dessert-inspired costumes that could single-handedly give her audiences Type 2 diabetes just by looking at them for more than a few seconds--we see her on-stage running through such hits as "Hot & Cold," "The One That Got Away," "Not Like the Movies" and the inspirational anthem "Firework along with covers of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" (a reasonably inspired choice) and "Hey Jude" (perhaps not so much) for her adoring audiences and offstage as she meets with her fans, hangs out with her new husband, comedian Russell Brand, and other members of her real and professional families and recounts her meteoric rise from the largely sheltered daughter of a Pentecostal minister to one of the reigning stars of the pop-culture firmament.

As a film critic, I did not go into "Katy Perry: Part of Me" expecting a masterpiece on the level of something like "Gimme Shelter" or the recently concluded trilogy of films centered on Neil Young by Jonathan Demme. However, as an unabashed fan of Perry--I am always willing to respond to a well-crafted pop tune and hers are among the best out there right now--I did go into it hoping to see her speaking openly about her rise to fame and addressing the myriad questions raised by both her work and the way that it has touched her fans over the last couple of years. For example, what does she make of the contradiction of putting forth the message in songs like "Firework" about being comfortable enough to embrace one's individuality, no matter how far it may stray from the status quo, while at the same time cultivating the kind of overtly sexy image (and no matter how hard she may try to undercut that image with cutesy kitsch, those are fairly spectacular breasts that are front and center in virtually every one of her different images)that helps to sell magazines, music videos and inferiority complexes by the truckloads? I would have also liked to get a look at the nuts-and-bolts work that goes into putting together a show of this magnitude on throughout the world and, of course, uninterrupted looks at her as she belts out the hits.


These would seem to be no-brainers but the only thing that the film seems to do well is frustrate audience expectations. One key problem is that virtually none of the songs are ever seen in their entirety and we therefore never get a chance to see how she connects with her fans through her art other than the endless shots of screaming audience members. Instead, it consists mostly of fans, hangers-on and even competitors like Adele, Rihanna and Lady Gaga talking about how wonderful she is, how she was able to triumph over every adversity that the music world threw at her by not immediately recognizing her genius and generally making a case for her immediate sainthood while Perry occasionally prattles on and on about not much of anything at all. After a while, the whole thing takes on the aura of an exceptionally fawning magazine cover story and when she responds to a little kid with lots of questions at a backstage meet & greet by telling him that she has given him more information than she ever has to a regular reporter, it is meant to be a joke but by the time the film ends, one may feel otherwise. The only fly in the ointment comes as we wind up bearing witness (albeit from a carefully cultivated distance) of the eventual dissolution of her marriage to Brand, despite her Herculean efforts to keep it going, and even that turns out to have a silver lining in the sense that while she may have been heartbroken at the time, the split at least meant that she was no longer under any obligation to sit through "Rock of Ages" in her lifetime and believe me, that does count for something. Yes, a successful pop star generally maintains a healthy ego--especially one willing to have a movie made about them after releasing only two albums to date--but Perry's wonderfulness is stressed so repeatedly and without even the slightest deviation from the hagiographic nature of the enterprise that "Renaldo & Clara" seems shy and retiring by comparison.

When all is said and done, there is only one brief moment in "Katy Perry: Part of Me" that breaks through the bullshit in order to show us something real. Throughout the film, we are treated to a repeated image of Perry as she is preparing to pop out on stage for her first number in a dress covered with motorized spinning circles. Most of the time, she is cheerful enough but at the point in question, the combination of sheer exhaustion and the news of the end of her marriage has taken its toll and as she gets ready to emerge, she looks utterly crushed until the ever-increasing cheers of her fans help her to literally put on her game face and do the show once again. The smile may be fake but the whole bit is, ironically enough, the closest the film ever gets to true authenticity. Make no mistake, I still like Perry and her music but this film has all the depth of a souvenir program and it is my sincere hope that this shallow effort may one day inspire her to make a better and smarter film that is more worthy of her and her accomplishments.

NOTE: At the screening of "Katy Perry: Piece of Me" that I attended, the film was prefaced by a clip of a sing-a-long of the redoubtable "You're the One That I Want" number from "Grease" that has been reconverted into 3-D so that the lyrics pop off the screen in various candy-colored hues. I have no idea if this is a preview of another full-scale reissue of the film or if this was merely a one-shot gimmick designed to help fill out the running time and justify the uptick in the ticket price (though I must admit that the special pink-and-blue 3-D glasses that were supplied may now become my default pair for films of this type). Regardless of which it is, I can now confidently say that my lifetime loathing of "Grease" has finally reached an entirely new dimension.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23655&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/05/12 06:06:41
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User Comments

7/25/12 wickedwoman25 she tried! 3 stars
7/24/12 Mick Gillies reality Pop slop - not the best part of her 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  05-Jul-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 18-Sep-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Jul-2012
  DVD: 18-Sep-2012


Directed by
  Dan Cutforth
  Jane Lipsitz

Written by
  N/A

Cast
  Katy Perry



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