Of all the complaints I expected to have about Katy Perry’s new 3-D concert film, watching her sing and dance didn’t figure to be primary among them. How unpleasant could it be to sit in an air-conditioned theater and gaze upon a cartoonishly curvy pop star prance around in cotton-candy colors?
But even that becomes a bit of a chore by the end — actually, by the middle — of “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” an overlong movie which presents the singer of “I Kissed a Girl” (and a slew of other mindless confections) as a savvy and resilient young woman but a remarkably underwhelming performer. Take away the teal wig and the pinwheel pasties, and you discover this girl really can’t dance.
Part documentary, part concert film, “Part of Me” is drawn from Perry’s 2011 “California Dreams” tour — a time, we’re told, of “tremendous success and personal heartbreak” for the singer, whose marriage to hirsute comedian Russell Brand was falling apart as she crisscrossed continents playing to swarms of screaming fans. (We glimpse Brand only briefly and he’s given no opportunity to defend himself when the relationship finally collapses.)
If the movie feels like a feature-length reality TV show — and it does — that’s because Magical Elves, the production team behind “Top Chef” and “Project Runway,” had a hand in its creation. (“Part of Me” was directed by Magical Elves founders Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, producers of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”) Perry, of course, is the star of this show, but there’s a cast of reasonably compelling characters who help tell her story, including her mother and father, a pair of Pentecostal preachers who seem oddly nonplussed by their daughter’s enormous success. (Perry’s mom, in particular, is an icy presence on screen.)
It’s Perry’s interactions with her fans — not the Candy Land-inspired stage set — that gives the movie its real sweetness. Although worn out from the road, she’s always able to muster a smile for her adoring acolytes at pre-show meet-and-greets, and I dare you not to tear up at the tender backstage moment she shares with a young Make-A-Wish admirer.
It’s also gratifying to see the singer occasionally unmasked, stripped of the Day-Glo wigs and sexy corsets. (Is there a pop star who needs 3-D less than Perry?) She is not Jessica Rabbit, nor is she a generic knockoff of Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, or Lady Gaga, with whom she has an amusing encounter at an awards ceremony. But what is she? Just like it says, “Part of Me” is one aspect of Perry, but her fans may leave the movie wanting more.