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Thursday, July 19, 2012 11:34 am

Part shows us what makes Perry tick

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What did I learn about Katy Perry in the new documentary covering her first world tour? Well, she sure is a hard worker; success hasn’t spoiled her yet; she seems to genuinely appreciate her fans; she can change her clothes really, really fast; and that Russell Brand character certainly didn’t deserve her.

Obviously, Katy Perry: Part of Me is a feature-length commercial for the reigning queen of pop. As a promotional tool it’s slick in delivering its product as well as generating a degree of empathy for and understanding of the singer. While a degree of manipulation and effective editing (just what was left on the cutting room floor?) is part-and-parcel to these kinds of projects, there’s a genuine sense of integrity (naiveté?) emanating from Perry. You can’t walk away from the film without liking her, if not for her kindness then at least for her tenacity.

As cobbled together by directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the movie chronicles the long, strange trip that was the “California Dreams” tour, a worldwide trek that saw the singer hit every conceivable spot on the globe that would have her, on a journey that would last more than a year. We get some brief behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to pull together the singer’s “Candyland”-on-steroids aesthetic before plunging into all things Katy.

We see her at meet-and-greet sessions embracing children and listening intently as they tell her their hopes and dreams; we learn about her strict Pentecostal upbringing and her efforts to break free and enjoy a degree of independence; we hear of her struggles to jumpstart a career that was going nowhere, from witnesses who helped facilitate it; and we see the grind of the tour eventually take its toll on Perry, reducing her to a physically drained and emotionally fragile heap.

Most documentarians hope for the unexpected to occur to make their project unique. While Cutforth and Lipsitz certainly didn’t wish the breakup of Perry’s marriage to Brand to occur while their cameras were running, it certainly adds a degree of drama to the feature. Truly distraught and at loose ends, we witness the singer put on a brave face for concertgoers in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and eventually start on her road to recovery through her music.

As concert films go, Katy Perry: Part of Me isn’t groundbreaking but it does feature more toe-tapping moments than any other movie of its sort made in recent years. There’s no denying that the singer/songwriter has a way with coming up with an infectious pop music hook that worms its way into your brain like a weevil, and the directors make sure to include them all. But as a portrait of a young woman struggling to attend to her career, marriage and family, it proves to be an unexpectedly engaging look at someone who seems poised for success both on stage and when the lights finally fade away.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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