'Katy Perry: Part of Me' Shows Just Enough
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
The concert documentary has become so much of a movie staple that it's also prone to the same kind of overdetermination that every other movie is these days. And that's across the board, regardless of the type of music the subject of a given doc proffers. Hence, for example, the very title of "Meeting People Is Easy," the 1999 movie featuring British band Radiohead, hammers on the irony because meeting people is pretty much the last thing that band's miserabilist lead singer wants to do, ever. Get it?
It then, of course, stands to reason that "Katy Perry: Part of Me" would take most, if not all, of its thematic cues from the relentlessly adorable and sassy female singer's upbeat believe-in-yourself-and-color-your-hair-however-you-like message of pulchritudinous empowerment. It is hardly surprising, then, that the movie makes "Madonna: Truth or Dare" look like "Gimme Shelter." This is not a complaint, merely an observation.
Search: More on Katy Perry
This ostensible "all-access" look at the Perry 2011 world tour, which wound down just as her much-publicized marriage to impish British comic Russell Brand was breaking up, gives its target audience just about as much truth as it can handle. That would consist of a fair number of shots of Katy working out sans makeup, Katy being a little bit sad at missing Russell, Katy being a lot sad at not seeing Russell, and stuff like that. Of course the above-mentioned target audience, largely teen and tween girls (although there were at least two men in drag at a screening I attended) are kind of pre-sold on not thinking much of Brand in the first place --"Eww" and "Jerk" were two epithets I heard from the rows behind me whenever he chanced to show up. So, in this case, the filmmakers are fortunate to have some of the above-cited overdetermination already done for them.
Said filmmakers, Dan Kutforth and Jane Lipsitz, who have an extensive background in reality television, are pretty deft at constructing the film's triune narrative, the first of which tells the career story of charismatic-minister's-daughter-Katy-and-her-transformation-from-sheltered-religious-songstress-to-perky-pop-don't-call-her-tart, with sidenotes on How Awesome A Person She Is; the second depicts the initially exhilarating ("There are 40,000 people out there, all right," a dancer fake-shrugs before a show) and eventually (as always) grueling tour and the Personal Toll It Takes; the third (and this is where the 3-D comes in) takes us through the Candyland-Meets-Leg-Show world of a Katy Perry concert.
What is there of interest for non-Katy-Perry fans? Not a whole lot. I'm not a hater, but as a 52-year-old white male there are very few wholesome ways that I'm capable of being invested in this particular phenomenon, aside from being suitably impressed with five No. 1 singles off the same album. Still, I was hardly bored.
It's always fun to watch music industry types act all caring about their clients and stuff, and I did get to ruminate a bit on the fickle finger of fate when the movie's Katy-career narrative chose to throw the once chart-ruling production team The Matrix under the bus, as the squelcher's of Perry's creative "vision." (The way the movie goes on about said vision, you'd think she was angling to make an album of Brecht/Eisler covers or something, but no; it's more like she insisted on "Kissed a Girl" as the first single.) I was also slightly disappointed, albeit not surprised, to learn that Keith Hudson, Perry's father, wasn't that Keith Hudson. 'Cause that would have been kind of weird/funny.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.