Even if you go into “Katy Perry: Part of Me” knowing that it’s not going to be “Gimme Shelter” or even “Stop Making Sense,” you may still be surprised at how much it’s like “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.” Or “Celine: Through the Eyes of the World.” Or any number of other label-endorsed infomercials for globally adored pop phenoms.
Breathless, teary-eyed testimonials from super-fans? Check. Grueling, exhausting tour? Check. Weary performer still making time to visit with trembling audience members? Check. Third-act will-the-show-go-on-oh-yes-it-will drama? Check.
Substitute “divorce from Russell Brand” for “throat nodule” and “California Gurls” for “Baby” or “I Drove All Night,” and these movies are pretty much indistinguishable.
The trudging devotion to formula would be more forgivable if “Part of Me” did a better job at capturing what’s ostensibly the point of the documentary: Katy Perry’s music. As it is, there isn’t a single song here that’s performed in its entirety, or performed start to finish without an interview or a backstage happening or something else interrupting the proceedings.
That’s disappointing, because Perry’s touring show incorporates a staggering amount of stagecraft, from the sets (imagine Willy Wonka managing a Club Libby Lu franchise) to the costumes (during “Hot and Cold,” Perry does costume quick-changes that any magician would admire) to the extraordinary efforts of her backup dancers.
Granted, she’s the commodity being sold here, but Perry herself comes off as charismatic and energetic, an evangelist’s daughter who’s preaching her own gospel of self-expression and non-conformity, albeit a mass-market-friendly, candy-colored brand of rebellion. The movie goes out of its way to paint her as a hard worker who gives it all for her fans, to the point where, in São Paulo, Brazil, she rouses herself from a crying jag brought on by the dissolution of her high-profile marriage to Brand, literally paints on a smile and knocks the socks off the largest crowd for whom she’s ever performed.
Documentaries like this operate almost like political campaigns — the faithful are already sold, the haters won’t be won over no matter what, and then there are the folks in the middle that might or might not be swayed. It’s hard to imagine anyone escaping the onslaught of Perry’s hugely successful album, which made her the first woman to rank five No. 1 hits from the same record, but “Part of Me” doesn’t showcase those singles to their advantage.
Perry is one of the modern masters of those earworm pop ditties that bore their way into your brain and refuse to let go, and as much fun as it is to watch her belt out “Firework” or “Teenage Dream,” “Katy Perry: Part of Me” never trusts its audience to have attention span enough to hear the songs all the way through and without truncation.
Perhaps a better title would have been “Katy Perry: Parts of My Songs.”