We have yet another popstar documentary to watch this year: “Justin Bieber: Our World.” The past two years have seen a steady stream of these films featuring an inside look into the lives of our favorite stars. Starting from the beginning of 2020, we’ve had Taylor Swift’s “Miss Americana” (January 2020), “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky” (October 2020), “Shawn Mendes: In Wonder” (November 2020), “Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You” (December 2020) and “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” (February 2021).
Coming to us now in October 2021, Bieber’s film centers around the month of preparation leading up to his New Year’s Eve concert in December 2020. Set in Beverly Hills, Calif., the concert featured a live audience of 240 people watching from balconies of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But the main viewership would be online, as Bieber partnered with T-Mobile to live stream the concert around the world for only $25 (or free for T-Mobile customers).
A majority of the 94-minute documentary is concert footage, which is a bit of a letdown for those expecting the more intimate perspective that powered “Miss Americana” and “The World’s a Little Blurry.” Bieber has already given the public a closer look through his YouTube docuseries, “Justin Bieber: Seasons” (January 2020), but regardless, the relatively impersonal nature of this film is likely to turn off most viewers. Watching a recording of a concert can be a little boring.
Director Michael D. Ratner (“Justin Bieber: Seasons”) attempts to weave behind-the-scenes footage throughout the film to keep things interesting, but you have to sit through the first 7-minute stretch of concert footage to get to it. (And that was just long enough for my movie buddy to fall fast asleep.) Towards the end of the film, the concert bits become much more interesting, because at that point the viewer knows all of the background work that went into the performance and is emotionally invested in the success of the show. But until the second half, the first 30 minutes are a drag.
For the dedicated Bieber fan who is willing to stick with it, “Justin Bieber: Our World” is a fun time. It’s his first concert since 2017, which is a pretty big deal. Everyone involved is excited to be back on stage, especially in 2020 when most performers were out of work. And the concert’s production is pretty awesome: They’ve got fireworks, drones and dramatic light shows, all perfectly timed to the music. The choreography is really fun to watch, and it’s intriguing to see everything that goes into the making of a concert — particularly the stressful hiccups that occur along the way, like the main choreographer testing positive for COVID-19, a thunderstorm pushing back construction and the overloaded livestream crashing, delaying the start time by a whopping 45 minutes.
But the real gems of the film are the subtle nods to Bieber’s personal growth through the past 10 years of living in the limelight. The title of the documentary is itself a nod to his first album in 2009, “My World,” which was so successful he made “My World 2.0” the following year. The simple switch from “my” to “our” hints at how Bieber has matured into a more conscientious person. The documentary features different key members of Bieber’s team who have worked with him throughout his career, and Lauren Walters’s perspective (his bodygaurd), in particular, highlights Bieber’s growth as a leader.
There are also quite a few heartfelt moments in the latter half of the film. In the actual concert, Bieber gives a sweet shoutout to his wife, Hailey, for the song “Holy,” and the two take a cute morning walk on the day of the concert. There’s some footage of the couple playing with Bieber’s siblings at a park; the emphasis on family conveys the singer’s newfound stability and maturity.
One of the last songs of the concert is “Lonely,” a heart-wrenching melody that reflects Bieber’s struggles as a kid growing up under the world’s microscope. The camera pans to a wide shot of the audience, with Bieber standing alone as a single, small silhouette. It’s a final nod to his past, and this song, as well as this documentary, seems to signal the start of a new era for Justin Bieber. It gives some closure to the old Justin Bieber and ushers in the future with a note of hope and excitement.
While it’s nothing revolutionary, fans will find “Justin Bieber: Our World” to be a fun, fairly interesting glimpse into the making of the New Year’s Eve concert — as well as a meaningful reflection as Bieber begins a new chapter of his life.
Daily Arts Contributor Pauline Kim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.