Review: In 'Part of Me,' an incomplete Katy Perry

Associated Press Modified: July 3, 2012 at 7:00 pm •  Published: July 3, 2012

It's a good thing the makers of "Katy Perry: Part of Me" aren't in politics. They'd probably steal the election.

"Part of Me" and its forerunner, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," are mesmerizing pieces of pop propaganda. Both 3-D concert films give a reality TV-style portrait of a young star, scrubbed clean, at the pinnacle of pop: touring sold-out arenas while making Herculean sacrifices, always finding time for their fans and goofing around with their entourages of stylists and assistants.

They're unabashedly commercial movies made about unabashedly commercial enterprises. And yet they're kind of fascinating.

That's because "Part of Me" is as good a document you're likely to find of modern pop stardom: how it's packaged, how it's sold and what kind of power it holds over screaming 'tween girls.

The film, directed by reality show veterans Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz (the pair produced "Never Say Never," as well as shows like "Top Chef" and "Project Runway"), follows Perry's 2011 California Dreams world tour. The 124-concert extravaganza came on the heels of her hit album "Teenage Dream," the only album to chart five No. 1 hits for a female performer.

A large chunk of the film is made up of 3-D footage of the concerts (songs like "Firework" and "California Gurls") performed on candy-colored stages that look like Willy Wonka threw up on. (All of the footage was shot by other filmmakers and later assembled by Cutforth and Lipsitz, who came aboard only to stitch the film together in editing.)

But much of the documentary is spent telling "Katy's story," and certainly, the blue-haired, dinner-plate eyed 27-year-old makes for a compelling character. Raised by traveling Pentecostal ministers, Perry first tried Christian songwriting as a 13-year-old and later, in Los Angeles, went through various incarnations before emerging as a star with "I Kissed a Girl."

As artificial as much of the apparatus surrounding Perry may be, none of it works without her charisma at the center. That comes through in "Part of Me," as does her intense drive to succeed after early failures. Many of those who helped along the way are here to sing her praises and take credit for their foresight of her talent, like her slick manager Bradford Cobb.

"Part of Me," though, doesn't succeed as a full picture of Perry. A less PG-friendly, more complicated version of the star surely exists off-screen. The film often feels like a tease, showing only, well, part of Perry.

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