"Katy Perry: Part of Me" is a lot like a really bland "Behind the Music" episode.
This glossy 3-D biopic, which opened nationwide on Friday, does tell Perry's story, from childhood through superstardom. It also features lots of concert scenes, archival footage and interviews with family and friends.
What's missing, however, is the one thing that often makes those VH1 celebrity shows so intriguing -- a sense that the viewer is getting an unfiltered look at a star's life.
It feels like we are only getting part of the story in "Part of Me." At least, let's hope that's all we are getting -- if it isn't, Katy Perry the person is a heck of a lot less interesting than her music and onstage persona.
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes moments in this film, yet each seems carefully selected to make Perry a likable and, more than anything else, sympathetic character. That's not surprising, given that the star was so heavily involved in getting this film made.
The film isn't about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- the triumvirate of topics that fuel many music documentaries. Instead, it's pretty much all squeaky clean fun, with the most controversial topic being what the star's mom thinks of Perry's breakout single "I Kissed a Girl" (it's not mom's favorite.) The film is even being promoted by Pepsi, for crying out loud.
The main storyline is Perry's California Dreams Tour, the lengthy 2011 trek that found the star performing for the
first time at major arenas across the globe. The film starts with the rehearsals and then follows the tour through the months and miles, on its way to becoming one of the year's most financially successful concert treks.
Along the road, archival footage takes us back to Perry's childhood, growing up in a highly religious household that frowned on secular music. We then watch her progression through the music industry, which included an early stint as a Christian music singer and a few false
starts in the pop world, before eventually signing on with Capitol Records and releasing 2008's multiplatinum "One of the Boys."
Some of those historical segments are interesting -- far more intriguing, actually, than much of the mediocre concert footage that benefits very little from the 3-D process. Yet, the back story unfolds like an artist's bio that critics like me receive in press kits all the time -- a document crafted by record label staffers intent on selling product.
The one thing that the team couldn't script, however, was Perry's marriage to comedian Russell Brand collapsing during the tour. Directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz ("Top Chef," "Project Runway") seize the moment with heavy hands, but instead of providing any real insight into what sank the marriage after little more than a year, they focus on Perry's heartbreak and on portraying her as a sympathetic character.
It was easy to lose count of all the times Perry is shown as the good wife, fighting a one-sided battle to make the marriage work, while Brand is basically portrayed as the Invisible Man as the relationship crumbles. That may indeed be a fair portrayal of the events, but the directors might have delivered more lasting insights if they hadn't labored to hammer that point home so often.
Perry's legions of loyal fans will no doubt savor "Part of Me." Everyone else should just stick to her records.
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