Katy Perry: Part of Me ★★★★

Are you ready for a Klostermanesque intellectual defense of Katy Perry?

When Katy first emerged she drove me absolutely bonkers and I couldn't have been more annoyed with her existence. It felt like she was ripping off Lily Allen's esthetic with a much more plastic, corporate sheen, and I was not digging the constant half-hearted "subversive" sexual innuendos, which came across as desperate for headlines and strange boycotts. Not even a few weeks ago I came across a street preacher who claimed that "I Kissed a Girl" is responsible for a dramatic rise in bisexuality and lesbianism among teenage girls. (If you're in Toronto, you can find him at Yonge/Dundas on weekends with a mini-amplifier strapped to his waist, holding up a photo of an aborted fetus . Even this weekend he was among the PRIDE crowd trolling happy gay people with this crap.)

Something happened along the way though. As she chocked up hit after hit this act got retconned into something a lot more childlike, colorful, and family-oriented. Here she is with Hershey Kiss tassles hanging off her boobs, singing about a menage a trois, and yet it was now coming across as innocent and playful. She seemed far more like a cartoon and almost asexual. And after a surprisingly good hosting job on SNL I started to realize that I think I liked this person. And with that I started accepting her into my otherwise European-dominated list of "acceptable pop music". It seemed to exist somewhere between Cyndi Lauper and Aqua, as inspired by someone who seems to have just discovered Willy Wonka and Pee-Wee Herman. While still completely mindless fluff, I felt glad knowing this was out there for the current teenybopper generation as a choice, and have become intrested to see where she's going to continue taking this Candyland Explosion esthetic.

So here's this documentary. I'd heard the Justin Bieber one from last year (from the same people) was actually well crafted, and thought maybe this would rise above expectations as well. It did. While still meant as a promotional vehicle, this documentary does properly communicate what she's trying to go for, and the story of her sheltered upbringing, subsequent discovery of life in Hollywood, and romance gone wrong actually provides a lot of context. Katy Perry is actually a very weird person who has really just emerged from a strict upbringing where she wasn't even allowed to watch the Smurfs, so what we are seeing now is, like Michael Jackson before her, making up for a lost childhood by indulging in every piece of candy coated object she can find. She shows off like a child, and seems to just want to express love and get it back, and I mean EARN it back by giving every inch of herself on and off stage. I could not help but be bowled over and impressed by her kindness, devotion and work ethic, pushing through very hard times and heartbreak. And when she goes through that heartbreak (documenting the dissolution of her marriage to Russel Brand) it actually does hurt to watch, because her crew doesn't really know what to do, because she has to push through it to perform, and because since she's so sweet, you can't help but view her as some kind of hurt animal.

The documentary is not perfect. It's fluffy the way Being Elmo is fluffy. About what you expect when you're documenting a borderline children's entertainer. The doc allows some talking heads to talk her up when more time with Katy's own thoughts would have been more appropriate. Katy is not exactly, well, brilliant, but her genuine charisma, sweetness and odd behavior make a better case for her than someone else talking her up. And yes, the film is essentially an extended commercial for her tour.

On that front the documentary works as a spectacle like gangbusters. The details, colors and costume changes work very well for 3D and sell her tour as though it were like seeing KISS or Cirque du Soleil. It seems like everyone is having the time of their life, including the performers. I've seen Lady Gaga's idea of a spectacle show and Katy's blows hers out of the water. The only problem is there isn't really enough of it, and when you're watching this in 3D you can't help but wish you'd spent more time among the bubbles and confetti.

So anyways, that's this film. If you're still in Katy-hating mode, this won't do anything to convince you of anything other than that she's an upstanding human being who works very hard. So maybe you can scroll down and read some of the quotes from fans at the screening I was at:

Before the film:

"I got, like, butter on my glasses. OMG I LOVE TIMEPLAY"

"You can tell when somethings, like, 3D, because it's like, retarded blurry"

"The best movie theaters are the ones that look like a spaceship. OOH Channing Tatum!"

"What if we were watching and like, Katy Perry came out of the screen. That'd be rad"

"The first day of school I'm coming with tattoos all over my face. Nicki Minaj is in shape."

"If I could go anywhere it would be Atlantis or the Bahamas"

"I wish I had a rainbow"

During a singalong clip from Grease played before the feature:
"Is this part of the movie?"

During the film:
Endless indecipherable chatter and singing along

After the film:
"I wish the 3D was a bit more like 3D and I'm full of Skittles"

That last one better be the pullquote on the back of the blu-ray.