Though Katy Perry's new Part of Me styles itself as another 3D concert docu-flick, a la Justin Bieber's Never Say Never, the film comes across more like a Bravo reality show spliced with confetti-filled concert sequences. And that's no mistake: the Magical Elves production team, famous for churning out slick reality confections like Top Chef and Project Runway, co-produced this vehicle along with Perry, turning moments like her breakup with Russell Brand into a glossy plot point. (Brand is hardly seen in the movie.)
The film is a mishmash of backstage clips, biography and footage from Perry's 2011 California Dreams tour. Perry appears in every scene, but the action is guided by her handlers, as they flit around, racing against time to perfect small details like the spinning peppermint candies on one of her costumes. It's not so much a rock movie as it as a glimpse into the creative work that goes into producing Perry's colorful image.
Here are five standout moments from the aggressively fun but sometimes lacking new flick:
1. Perry reveals her Alanis worship. Before all the bi-curious pop hits, Perry's early, self-produced songs settled nicely into the mid-Nineties alt/punk scene. She reveals that Alanis Morissette's 1995 debut Jagged Little Pill inspired her to go into music. For some reason, however, the film skips over Perry's early indie days on the Warped Tour, her relationship with Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes and her controversial first major label single, "Ur So Gay."
2. The sweet moments where Perry seems human. With the Magical Elves' candy-colored production, the film is burdened by the same gloss as Perry's actual career, at times leaving you to wonder who the real singer is underneath the glittery facade and painstakingly radio-friendly hits. One poignant moment shows Perry crouched in a ball in her makeup chair, removing her wedding ring and crying in a depressive breakdown about her looming separation. At the last minute, Perry pulls herself together and promises her team she'll make it; we then see her prepped in the trap door, fighting tears and then breaking into a smile just as she's cast up on stage. (As Perry co-produced the film, it's important to note that the take on the Brand/Perry breakup is one-sided; here, Perry is the tireless devotee jetting to wherever her husband is to squeeze in quality time.)
3. Sexy costumes. Let's face it: a large part of Perry's appeal is seeing her outrageous stage garb, and the 3-D production leaves no twirly pinwheel pastie unpopped. Her dress made to resemble candy dots, her scores of Day-Glo wigs and her sexy bustiers in all kinds of Jolly Rancher hues take on their full visual effect here, including something cool with bubbles being blown on stage. The contrasting shots, however, are even more striking; Perry is seen in a few segments wearing no makeup and ticking off the long list of junk food she's been eating while on her tour bus.
4. Perry's grandma, who makes an adorably cranky appearance when the singer stops by her house to give her a pink satin California Dreams tour jacket. Perry's sister and parents also make an appearance in the carefully preened narrative that presents Perry as sheltered Christian choirgirl turned international pop princess, but Grandma Perry is the true highlight. "The show was too loud," she says at the end, greeting her heavily costumed granddaughter backstage after taking in a performance.
5. The whipped cream gun, which makes a random appearance in the first act and, true to form, emerges at the end in its full 3D, audience-garnishing splendor. Do people really go to this show to get sprayed with whipped cream?