The new documentary "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" takes a look at how the rock band Journey's quest to find a new frontman. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.
The new movie "Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey" might be described as a rockumentary fairy tale.
In 2007, the members of Journey were looking for a new lead singer to go on tour with. The fact that whoever they found would be performing, in effect, as a stand-in for Steve Perry wasn’t all that novel. This sort of thing, of course, had been going on for years with bands like Styx and Van Halen. What was novel is that Journey found what it was looking for on YouTube: a Filipino singer-songwriter named Arnel Pineda. As they discovered, he does an extraordinary impersonation of Perry’s majestic wide-vibrato croon.
The resemblance ends there. I suppose you could say that Pineda also has Steve Perry’s hair, but beyond that, he’s a short, playful, gee-whiz sort of dude who, up on stage, seems less a star than an ultimate fan hitting the nightly karaoke jackpot. It’s fun, for a while, to see how this likable, talented nobody adjusts to performing in arenas.
As "Don’t Stop Believin'" goes on, we learn a few things about Pineda’s background, like the fact that he’s a recovering addict. Overall, he comes off as a very sweet and humble man, grateful for winning the rock-god lottery. Yet the true novelty that’s being celebrated here is the fact that he’s an Asian from the scrappy streets of the Philippines. After a while, that theme begins to seem a little patronizing.
In case you’re wondering, you do get to see a lot of old clips of Journey in "Don’t Stop Believin'", and though that sounds as standard as a rerun of "Behind the Music", the fact is that whenever Steve Perry comes on screen, you remember why this band had a kind of middle-of-the-road greatness.
You can’t blame Arnel Pineda for being an incredible simulation, rather than the real thing. Yet "Don’t Stop Believin" is a fairy tale that milks its one thin, idiosyncratic situation for more joy, tears, and ironic laughter than it can sustain.