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Katy Perry Delivers a Real “Teenage Dream” with “Part of Me 3D”

July 9, 2012

By John C.

Documentaries about pop stars that are released in the midst of their careers can sometimes feel like a mere capitalization on their popularity, but this is thankfully not the case with the excellent Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D.  Those who don’t listen to her music will likely walk away with a deeper appreciation of the pop star, and as a fan of Katy Perry, the film made me admire her even more.

Following the pop singer over her year long California Dreams tour, we see everything from her strict evangelical upbringing as Katy Hudson and her debut Christian album, to her romance and ultimate divorce from bad boy comedian Russell Brand.  A nicely edited mix of the 27-year-old star talking in sometimes shockingly candid detail about her life, revealing interviews with her family and crew and exhilarating performances, this is a fascinating and inspirational look at how the genuine performer followed her dream to become “the first Katy Perry.”

From the opening performance of the definitive “Teenage Dream” to the lyrics of “Wide Awake” over the end credits that suggest an even deeper spiritual awakening, every song is played at the perfect moment in the documentary to provide a thematically compelling soundtrack to the film.  The 3D is memorably used during the colourful performances of the playfully sexual “Peacock,” the electronically edged “E.T.” and the inspirational pop anthem “Firework.”  The bubbles that fill the stage during the quietly effecting performance of “Not Like the Movies” seem to float right into the audience and the seven costume changes during “Hot N Cold” are impressive no matter what.  Her acoustic performance of “The One That Got Away” is just beautiful, providing one of the most moving moments in the film.

I’ve heard and quite like both of Katy Perry’s albums, 2008’s One of the Boys and the Grammy-nominated 2010 follow up Teenage Dream, and am always impressed with the honest power of her voice.  There is genuine emotion conveyed through her songs, and the joyfully sexual themes of some of her lyrics and the playfully revealing costumes are admittedly a big part of what gives her great crossover appeal to the young adult demographic.  She is a pop star who clearly understands her physical appeal, and doesn’t mind playing it up in her performances and vibrant costumes, without ever overstepping the boundaries of having fun or sending an inspirational message.

But clearly everyone can’t share in the enthusiasm.  I personally think that the sometimes blatant sexual content of her lyrics aren’t appropriate for the youngest fans, and the film didn’t do well at the box office over the weekend.  I think part of it is because Paramount put the wrong spin on the marketing, making it seem like more of a concert film than it really is.  Katy Perry really does have a story worth telling, and here she shows the person beneath the pop star.  The performances are rousing and spectacular, but this is also an emotionally raw documentary that wouldn’t have felt out of place if it had played at Hot Docs.

Katy Perry is only the second pop star after Michael Jackson to have five singles from the same album make it to number one on the charts, but here she is seen without makeup and getting ready for her shows, battling exhaustion and painfully captured emotional breakdowns as her marriage starts to crumble.  There are millions of teenagers and young adults who have been deeply inspired by her music and message of being yourself no matter what, and Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D is an honest and excellent look at the pop star that will make fans appreciate her even more.

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