Ever wanted to see Justin Bieber get his nose swabbed for a Covid test? Here’s your chance. Director Michael D. Ratner’s by-the-numbers music documentary “Justin Bieber: Our World” is strictly for the fans. While Beliebers may be titillated by the mundane behind-the-scenes goings-on of the pop brat’s pandemic-era concert on the roof of the Beverly Hilton, there’s little else to invite in new audiences. Still,
While the documentary opens with Bieber filming himself rising out of bed and taking a shower (not unlike the beginning of Netflix’s much slicker Shawn Mendes documentary), you can hardly mistake this concert documentary as some kind of unvarnished vérité record. This thing has been wiped and polished with a public-relations sheen. What the movie does offer is a beveled window into the pop star’s day-to-day with wife Hailey Bieber, and the sorts of (obviously staged) stilted conversations the pair have. (Still, their chemistry in front of the camera is way more palpable than the dying sparks floating between Mendes and Camilla Cabello in the aforementioned Netflix documentary.) “It’s so weird how everyone has had to be so meticulous about Covid, right Hailey?” says Bieber, whose net worth is nearly $300 million and whom the pandemic barely scraped.
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Essentially “Our World” is an extended behind-the-scenes promo reel for Justin Bieber’s New Year’s Eve concert on the Beverly Hilton in December 2020, an event that was live-streamed globally. For the concert, Bieber did not show up in his Sunday best, but instead wore a black hoodie, khaki cargo pants, and a customary backwards cap. Even he can make schlubiness ooze a certain kind of charming cool. The setlist included plenty of his radio-friendly favorites: “All Around Me,” “Sorry,” “Boyfriend,” “Love Yourself,” “Yummy,” and more, all pandering earworms that preach a sort of cheery resilience in the face of adversity. His music has done nothing if not empower his young fans to believe in themselves, etc. “I prioritize my relationships, my family, and my wife so that I can do the things I want” is one of Bieber’s many platitudes delivered throughout the movie.
That air of positivity also extends to his security team, who throughout this documentary pledge allegiance to Bieber in ways that feel believable and not totally canned. This former YouTuber turned 27-year-old pop sensation sure is adored by all. “Justin has been told he’s the songbird of our generation,” Hailey says at one point. The movie doesn’t go anywhere near the various public scandals that have plagued Bieber over the years, from public intoxication to vandalism, but then again that would be a different kind of movie. (The Biebers also threw a hugely illegal pre-vaccine summer party in Los Angeles that had them in hot water.)
There’s one bizarre anecdote Bieber shares that encapsulates just how oblivious he is to what’s happening around him, which is that at some point, he claims, he saw a house on fire and when he started singing, the blaze went out like that. Okay then.
The drone and stage footage of the Beverly Hilton concert is occasionally transportive, including the massive “stage” (which is actually just the hotel’s roof) twilit by purple blinkering neon lights. The film ends with an emotional aria in the form of Bieber’s ballad “Anyone” (making its live debut here), which is basically an ode to what a wonderful person Hailey Bieber is and how she’s the best thing he’s “ever done.” Cutaways to her backstage corroborate that this is indeed an emotional moment for the pair. Just not so much for us.
“Justin Bieber: Our World” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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