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Pop star Katy Perry cannot be criticized for a lack of showmanship — her performances feature massive Candyland-themed sets, rainbow-hued wigs and fantastical costumes — but the question facing her upcoming concert doc Katy Perry: Part of Me was whether all the glitz and splash would translate into a quality film. Critics have not offered a strict “yes” or “no”: the film, which opens Thursday, has garnered praise for Perry’s honesty and infectious enthusiasm, while other reviews have critiqued it as glossy and unreal.
The doc follows Perry’s 2011 California Dreams Tour, which supported her commercially record-shattering third album Teenage Dream. Directed by Project Runway and Top Chef vets Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, who also produced last year’s successful Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, the film features concert sequences in 3D (a decision questioned by some critics) as well as behind-the-scenes footage that covers (perhaps one-sidedly) her brief marriage to Russell Brand.
It also uses interviews to touch on Perry’s now-familiar history: her strict Christian upbringing and her explosion from struggling songwriter to megastar, becoming what The Hollywood Reporter‘s Justin Lowe calls “the sex-kitten alternative to Lady Gaga’s perplexing chameleon persona.” Here’s a roundup of the critics’ thoughts:
Lowe says the film seems “arguably more of an adulatory artist profile than a bona fide concert doc,” but praises its presentation of Perry’s musicianship. “The live performances in particular feature an energized sheen sometimes missing from Perry’s music videos featuring the very same songs,” he writes.
He also lauds its format as “attractively, if conventionally, assembled,” noting that scenes with Perry’s family “lend a more intimate perspective to the project.” He claims that “this is still powerhouse counterprogramming opposite the Amazing Spider-Man,” which opened July 3.
Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News praised the film’s sheer entertainment value. “Perry may be the world’s most high-profile tease, but she sure knows how to show us a good time,” Weitzman writes.
Rolling Stone‘s Jessica Misener wrote that the film “at times [leaves] you to wonder who the real singer is underneath the glittery facade and painstakingly radio-friendly hits,” but nonetheless praises Perry’s theatrics, adding, “Let’s face it: a large part of Perry’s appeal is seeing her outrageous stage garb…. her scores of Day-Glo wigs and her sexy bustiers in all kinds of Jolly Rancher hues take on their full visual effect here.”
Huffington Post’s Kia Makarechi and Crystal Bell found highs and lows. Makarechi said, “Part of Me is exactly what one would expect. Fun, informative and ultimately inspirational”; Bell said the film compared favorably to similar docs like Never Say Never and Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience, but also found that “the film feels diluted by the same gloss that has seemingly propelled Katy’s career.”
Both commented on the coverage of Perry and Brand’s relationship, Makarechi saying, “The treatment of the divorce was the best and worst part of the movie. It was interesting and saddening to see her sobbing immediately before going on stage…but the discussion of her and Brand’s relationship was too heavy-handed and one-sided to be taken seriously.”
Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips seemed to find the doc hollow, writing, “What do we learn from the film, other than the only thing that looks cool in this pointless 3-D context is laser stage lights shooting at your face?” But he praised its star: “I find Perry likable in her camera-friendliness…. She has that Jenny McCarthy-but-raised-a-Pentacostal-Christian shamelessness and drive, and a great smile. The movie, whatever.”
Reuters‘ Zorianna Kit was perhaps most impressed, writing that the film “is anything but standard fare…. The movie humanizes Perry in a way that is rare in Hollywood.”
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