*1/2 (out of four)
The concert documentary “Katy Perry: Part of Me” may appear fascinating to anyone who did not realize that pop stars sometimes don’t wear makeup and that people experiencing relationship problems sometimes cry. It may also rivet those who remain oblivious to Perry’s widely reported conservative Christian upbringing, which becomes a borderline non-issue in the film considering the lack of conflict between Perry’s parents and the singer when she puts away her gospel songs in favor of singing about tight jeans while dressed as food.
In other words, “Katy Perry: Part of Me” focuses only on the parts we already know.
Like “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” or “The Glee 3D Concert Movie,” “Part of Me” minimizes the artist at its center in favor of other people generalizing about her. Her inner circle claims Perry is the chairperson/CEO of her own brand, but the film’s directors, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, include negligible footage of the woman in charge of making tough decisions and controlling her career. Fans shriek and offer insights like, “Katy Perry inspires me because she just does” or, a little more specifically, “Her lyrics have inspired me.” The youngster neglects to specify if he feels more inspired by lines like, “I smell like a minibar/DJ’s passed out in the yard” or “Are you brave enough to let me see your peacock/don’t be a chicken, boy, stop acting like a beyotch.”
The movie also omits Perry’s creative process. “Part of Me” doesn’t want fans to know if Perry kissed a girl or melted someone’s popsicle, or to wonder why her songs caught on at all. The message is that Perry does what she wants to do and people like it.
Simple enough. Except the movie doesn’t examine how mildly salacious but ultimately harmless pop songs find a chart-topping sweet spot between intense, button-pushing sexuality (Rihanna) and family friendly earnestness (Taylor Swift). Or how Perry’s persona leads to controversy like being too busty for “Sesame Street.” (This is your cue to joke that “Part of Me 3D” should have been “Part of Me 3DD.” Up top!)
That’s a shame because there are so many more interesting elements at play here. How do her producers continually deliver such ridiculously catchy songs, regardless of often-disposable lyrics? Why has a singer with a just-OK voice and bare-bones dance routines made such a splash? The film fails to offer a deeper examination of how much luck it takes to become a star. We do see, however, how Perry’s career ignited after a Columbia Records employee stole her files and passed them to the more suitable Capitol Records.
Most significantly, the film doesn’t ask why the 27-year-old Perry behaves like an adult child. Perhaps as a product of her repressive youth, this massive star still calls herself a baby, yearns for a fairy tale romance while singing about teenage dreams, posts Facebook entries about cotton candy clouds and frolics among a candy land on stage.
Meanwhile, she dresses like an ice cream sundae but never offers more than a sample spoon into her life. Though a scene in which she must pull herself together and fake a smile for the crowd reveals the grueling need for entertainers to perform regardless of what’s happening in their lives offstage.
The movie certainly doesn’t uncover Perry’s ultimately doomed marriage to Russell Brand. We see that she was willing to fly around the world to see him while he wasn’t, but not how the two celebs with opposite backgrounds and largely varied fanbases ended up together.
“Part of Me” merely promotes Perry as an ambitious role model for fans in braces who gush about concerts feeling like “being shot with an arrow of Katy Perryness.” However, Perry’s generically Gaga-esque motto (and the film’s tagline) of “Be yourself, and you can be anything” only seems extended to certain people. At concerts, Perry delights in bringing audience members on stage, but your chances of being selected increase tenfold if dressed up as, say, a hot dog.
Those who are being themselves in clothes not purchased at a costume shop will have to settle for life as a side dish.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U