Chances are, you already know who Katy Perry is. Every time she shows up on stage or screen, one gets the feeling that Candyland, glitter, wigs and spinning peppermint bras got thrown in a blender and then somebody lifted the lid without hitting the Off switch. Her music is pop heaven, but this documentary done by the same people who produced the Justin Bieber: Never Say Never film make her reality a little more down to earth than what you would expect. It's filled with pizzazz and sparkle, but not enough to distract from the real person under the cupcake skirt.
Full disclosure: I am a fan. I love her music because I can sing to it and it gets me all psyched up to go out on Friday night and act stupid. I am most definitely not alone (thank god), because her ginormous fan base is very heavily represented in the film as is customary for music docs. Anyone who isn't a Katy lover or Perry-curious should spend their money on The Amazing Spider-Man without a second thought--this will most likely not make you a fan, although it's one of the likeliest candidates out of recent 3D concert flicks. Perry fans are less obsessed than Beliebers but pretty close to Gleeks, because their heroine inspires them to be as weird as they wanna be and rejoice in their bedazzled pink bedspreads and love of purple wigs. The film does a great job of showing how hard Perry works to connect with them and give of herself in order to make them smile. A cynical viewer might take that as the publicity machine working overtime, but given Katy's candid and high-spirited nature in the rest of the film, I personally found it realistic and endearing. She really seems like she's having a great time and wants to make sure everyone else is too.
Now, she might be having a ball, but she's still earning her paycheck. Every film like this has to tell you how haaaard the stars are working to entertain you. This tour seems to take it to a crazy level, though. Bono didn't dance with a big purple cat named Kitty Purry and then get led around on leashes by five dancers in just two songs worth of time. Night after night, when that platform rises and takes her onstage, what she does for the next two hours is more intense than a marathon. And it seems to take a toll on her physically and emotionally, which is the most interesting aspect of the movie. She doesn't lose her voice like Celine and Bieber did--she loses her (ex) husband Russell Brand. And for someone so full of smiles and sparkle, it's especially awful to watch (one can only imagine Brand's side that they don't bother telling). Her real life creeping in on the edges of this weird cherry-topped wonderland she works in every night with tens of thousands of people sucking out her life force gives this movie an interesting edge.
Her music and persona walk the line of being so sweet that tweens can't resist her, but she has an edge that's for adults only. The movie feels similar. The stage looks spectacular and made me wish I had fought for a ticket when she was touring. Even though I can't imagine kids caring about her Christian upbringing or her parents swearing they would never watch her half naked on MTV, it gives Perry, whose depth only exists in certain lyrics, more humanity and grounding (especially the extensive home video footage). Instead of rolling my eyes, I liked her more. And, as a testament to consistent editing and storytelling, showing her demanding life careening into her demanding career after years of hoping for it to happen, liking her CD has turned into liking her. Or, what we've been allowed to see of her. But it's hard to be cynical when you're staring at a pin-up girl winking at you while shooting whipped cream out of her bra.