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Review: Katy Perry: Part of Me

'Wait… Why am I reviewing this?'

 

OH MY GOD IT’S KATY PERRY SHE’S SO COOL AND GIRL POWER AND AWESOME AND I CAN’T BELIEVE RUSSELL BRAND LET HER GO AND OH MY GOD SHE’S SHOOTING WHITE FOAM ALL OVER HER PRE-TEEN GIRL AUDIENCE AND…

Actually… that’s kind of a head scratcher. And the custom 3D glasses they gave out at the theater looked like they were designed after the sunglasses from Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, which raises a few eyebrows as well. Katy Perry: Part of Me tries to be a mainstream documentary/concert film, promoting the pop star as an individual, an artist and a marketable product, and yet the performer’s unique on-stage persona is not just infectious but, occasionally, also disarmingly subversive. After following Perry’s real-life exploits for an hour and a half, I’m still not sure how intentional this paradoxical mix of sexiness and childlike goofiness really is. She says she's just being herself, but how much thought she puts into the curious subtext of her image, for better or worse, remains unexplored.  

Katy Perry – whose music I actually like, thank you very much – has made a career out of pre-teen daydream scenarios, like living in a world made of candy and covering everything you own in glitter. She took bubblegum pop and added actual bubble gum, and lyrics about having a ménage a trois. The woman is a masterful entertainer, whose “California Dreams” tour brought her unique Pee-wee Herman blend of Saturday morning cartoon wonder and quasi-sensual audacity to the world, at the cost of her own fairy tale romance to Russell Brand. Brand doesn’t get much screen time; he just flits briefly around the periphery at the beginning of the movie, waiting to break Perry’s heart. It’s like some weird director’s cut of Titanic where the iceberg is a supporting character.

Katy Perry: A Hard Candy’s Night isn’t the kind of documentary that leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of warts-and-all revelations. It opens with a montage of fan videos depicting children of all ages explaining why songs like “California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg)” and “Ur So Gay” inspired them to embrace their inner weirdo and pursue their dreams. I had similar feelings about “Weird” Al Yankovic once, so I can’t judge, although as an increasingly old fart I do hope they listen to Bob Dylan or N.W.A. at some point. It’s pretty damned clear at the outset that this movie was made specifically for hardcore Katy Perry fans. And men with an anime fetish, but that goes without saying.

Katy Perry: Gumdrop Making Sense is a love note to an entertainer who’s still at the height of her career. She seems like a lovely person, devoted to her fans and personable both on and off the stage. She deserves credit for having such a spectacularly coordinated “look” but appearing in her own movie without a hint of makeup half the time. It’s certainly interesting to hear her talk about her evangelical upbringing and playfully goad her parents with jokes about her pro-sexual experimentation ballad “I Kissed a Girl” while still seeming to respect their divergent beliefs. If there’s any kind of disappointment, it stems from the film’s tendency to cut away from her outlandish live performances, which could have carried an entire feature film on their own.

Wait… Why am I reviewing this?

If you already liked Katy Perry, the movie won’t do anything to disrupt your fandom. If you still scream whenever you hear her songs on the radio, declaring openly that “Peacock” is your jam, then Katy Perry: Don’t Look Sour Jacks is cinnamon-flavored crack. If you can’t stand her, then you are clearly a monster who hates puppies and fun, and the world would be better off without you. That’s what I learned from this film anyway. It’s a feature length commercial for a product you already own, and you have to pay to see it. That you’ll enjoy the experience is either beside the point or the only thing that matters.