I generally enjoy the music of the band Journey as much as the next guy, but it never struck me as a group in need of a documentary. Yes, their new lead singer Arnel Pineda brings a very cool underdog story along with him (which I’ll detail in a bit for those who don’t know), but it’s very hard to see ‘Don’t Stop Believin: Everyman’s Journey’ as a doc that the world required. It’s got good music and goes down easy, but it feels more like a Special Feature on a Concert DVD of the band than anything else. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of music docs, though there have been some classic rock and roll themed ones over the years, but they tend to be helmed by master filmmakers like Martin Scorsese. Nothing against director Ramona S. Diaz, but quite frankly she’s just no Scorsese. If you dig Journey’s music, you’ll definitely have a leg up here, but unless you’re a hardcore fan, there’s likely not quite enough here to recommend to you (and even if there was, it’s on VOD the day after it hits theaters, so you could just watch it from the comfort of your own home that very weekend). I had a decently good time with this flick, but it tested my patience a bit too much, and by the end I really just wanted it to end.
For those who don’t know, the rock band Journey is made up of musicians Neal Schon, Ross Valory, Jonathan Cain, Deen Castronovo, and the aforementioned Arnel Pineda as the lead singer. Notably, the original lead was Steve Perry, but he left the band years ago. While searching for another new singer (after another departure), the band came upon a video on YouTube of the Filipino Pineda singing. They were instantly captivated by his amazing voice, and the fact that he really sounded just like Perry. Pineda was flown to America, auditioned for the band he worshipped, and soon was hired by them. This rags to riches story makes up the bulk of the documentary, but some additional time is spent getting into the history of the iconic band and Pineda’s life in the Philippines, but mostly we just follow them on the road as they slowly work their way back into the public’s eye in a big way, boosted by the Cinderella story that is Pineda. This is basically a snapshot of where Journey is as a band these days, and it likely will base its success on being able to appeal to its current fans most of all. I can see it being enjoyed by some, but again…this just feels like a glorified Special Feature. Honestly, it might have also been better served by that fate in the end as well.
Ramona S. Diaz doesn’t do anything especially interesting with the look and feel of the documentary, preferring instead to just focus in on Pineda and have most of the rest of the band be talking heads. Diaz does get some nice behind the scenes moments of Journey in the studio, before going on stage, and after shows, but mostly she just gives us a lot of Pineda. That’s all well and good, but it gets a little repetitive about halfway through, and we really don’t get any new details at that point. The music is still catchy and enjoyable, but the story begins to grow stale. What’s captivating as a news story during a telecast just doesn’t necessarily work as a full blown feature, and this one clocks in at an unwieldy 113 minutes. Many a doc struggles to sustain interest for that long, and this is one that really would struggle under the best of circumstances. By the time we get our first long look at a set by the band, we’re into the climax of the movie and audiences may have checked out by then. I know that I was struggling not to myself, and that’s not a good sign at all. I like Journey, so those who aren’t into the band will really have a hard time not calling it quits.
There’s some moving material to be found in ‘Don’t Stop Believin: Everyman’s Journey’ and Arnel Pineda’s tale is one to certainly celebrate, but ultimately the documentary just isn’t interesting enough to be a success. By not delving into any real issues of depth, the doc never becomes more than just a glorified fan film meant to be enjoyed by those who follow Journey everywhere they go. Casual fans might be initially intrigued, but by the end their patience will have been tested, and non fans really need not apply here. At nearly an hour too long, this look at Pineda’s success story is just too long and too simple for its own good. I wanted to like it, but I wound up more than a little disappointed. It’s still got an appeal, but it’s far more of a niche one than I was expecting. Alas…
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Tags: 2013 releases, documentary, Don't Stop Believin: Everyman's Journey, Journey, music