Critics' Pick

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (R)

Documentary 105 March 8, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
Long relegated to pop-culture punch-line and music-critic's whipping boy, Journey still stands among the most commercially successful American musical acts of the last four decades. The band's meat-and-potatoes arena rock has inspired snickers from the cool kids, then became a badge of ironic hipster cool, and has always been the heartfelt soundtrack of middle-American blue collar life. As Ramona S. Diaz's documentary Don't Stop Believin' illustrates, Journey's songs have even resonated with struggling people around the world, a point illustrated by the film's central story: the band's search for a replacement for lead singer Steve Perry, whose vocal pyrotechnic on songs like "Open Arms," "Faithfully," and "Don't Stop Believin'" prove almost impossible to match. Thanks to the reach of YouTube, the band found their guy—in Manila. Arnel Pineda, a Filipino cover singer who specialized in Journey songs, was ready to throw in the towel on his career when he received the call to audition. Armed with a backstory that stops just shy of Dickensian—a childhood marked by homelessness and the death of his mother-- he's a small-framed man with a massive voice. The film sustains a current of tension as we watch Pineda make the leap from small bars to arenas, battling insecurities and fears-- including worries that as a replacement for Perry, there's no room for his own "voice." It's a moving tale made more so because even after he's "won," Pineda maintains a clear-eyed pragmatism about what living a fairy tale costs.
Ramona S. Diaz Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, Deen Castronovo, Arnel Pineda Ramona S. Diaz Ramona S. Diaz, Capella Fahoome Brogden Cinedigm Entertainment/Docurama


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