Review: Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey


Director:Ramona S. Diaz

Cast:Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon, Deen Castronovo, Jonathan Cain

Running Time:113 Minutes


Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is one of the most popular songs of all time, a cheesy, soaring ballad that has come to be loved by millions of people un-ironically. This sloppy documentary, also called Don't Stop Believin', aims to be just as inspiring, but it's like watching a cover band: they've got the music down pat, but the passion is curiously absent.

The story behind this doc should, by all accounts, make you want to stand up and cheer. Arnel Pineda was a former alcoholic and addict toiling away in rock obscurity in his native Philippines. His buddy had put some of his Journey covers on YouTube, which caught the attention of Journey guitarist Neal Schon, who got him to come out and audition for Steve Perry's old job, which he nailed.

But this rags-to-riches tale never goes any deeper than it has to. It's lazy filmmaking about a band that could be called many things but never that. Plus, it feels a little disingenuous. While the band took a risk by bringing an unknown foreign kid to the States to replace one of the most singular voices in rock, they didn't exactly pick Pineda for his vocal chops. They picked him because he sounds nearly identical to Perry. That's a key difference that removes any stakes the group had riding on this tour.

What's most frustrating about Don't Stop Believin' is how it's so often close to digging into something of substance, whether it's Pineda's importance to Filipino-Americans or some of the fans' casual racism"”one person says the band should have picked an American singer"”but remains content to glide on past it to get to some above-average concert footage.

The movie also pads out its nearly two-hour running time with endless shots of the crew setting up the stage, then taking it down after the show, then rolling to the next city on the tour to do it all again. It repeats itself thematically, too. Before and after every show, Pineda laments that he's going to freeze up or perform poorly, only for him to go out and kill every single time.

Don't Stop Believin' plays like the last 20 minutes of a Behind the Music episode, only without the gravitas of Jim Forbes' narration or the tightness of paring it down to an hour with commercials. That would have been a journey worth taking.    


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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