*1/2 (out of four)
Truth: My lifelong Cubs fandom doesn't make me biased against “Don't Stop Believin',” a documentary about the new-ish frontman for massive ’80s rock band Journey, whose iconic song became the theme for the 2005 World Series champion White Sox.
What I am biased against, however, are music docs that tell less than half the story. It happens a lot. Recently, “Katy Perry: Part of Me” purported to take an inside look at the backstage heartbreak of the candy-cane and cleavage princess and delivered only fluff (and cleavage). Similarly, “Don't Stop Believin’ ” chronicles the members of Journey discovering Filipino singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube and hiring him full-time about five years ago. Of course there's inspiration to this only-in-the-Internet age story, a 21st century, real-life version of Mark Wahlberg's rise in “Rock Star.” That Pineda grew up poor and eventually was homeless on the streets of Manila makes his eventual stardom that much sweeter.
Yet the way director Ramona S. Diaz interviews only those closely tied to the band and constantly tries to assert the wisdom of adding Pineda, you'd think “Don't Stop Believin’” were made by a member of Pineda's family. The film glosses over any tough details, from the late-'90s departure of longtime Journey singer Steve Perry to Pineda's problems with drugs and alcohol before he joined Journey. How does he feel about audiences who spout racial epithets, or that he had to give up his original voice to sing another artist's songs? Or that it never seems like he's truly integrated into the band, merely a guy who shows up for gigs and gets thanked by the real members?
No idea. Other than tiny complaints about traveling and battling illness, Pineda's all smiles, as if the film has passed through a publicist before hitting theaters. “Don't Stop Believin' ” includes Pineda stating, “I'm living a fairy tale right now” but completely loses track of his friend and biggest fan who uploaded Pineda's work to YouTube and is thus partially responsible for the Journey singer's gig. Rather than shade the story, Diaz thinks screaming fans and Pineda’s newfound opportunity to meet Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley backstage is happy ending enough.
Because clearly Journey's just as popular now as they ever were and will be around forever …
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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