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Movie review: 'Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey' with Journeyby Jim Farber - nydailynews.com
April 26, 2012
Ever fantasize about having a lost twin?
While many have, its doubtful any of them imagined a scenrio quite as unlikely as the one stumbled upon by the annoyingly catchy corporate-rock band Journey.
Five years ago, the group were on the hunt for yet another singer to sub for their departed lead shouter Steve Perry. A divisive figure, Perry split years ago over both health concerns (his ongoing hip problems) and personal ones (he and the band came to loathe each other).
Group mainstay Neal Schon had been considering the depressing route of hiring some schmoe from a Journey tribute band when, late one night trolling YouTube, he fell across something impossible. Doing a "Journey" search, he found a good-looking, age-appropriate guy, half a world away in the Philippines, who, whaddya know, sounded EXACTLY like Perry. Arnel Pineda, a dirt-poor, failed rock star in his native Manila, had precisely the same barrel-chested power and tangy timbre as the original singer, but with a backstory capable of giving this aging group of "old whiteguys" a media hook to die for.
A Filipino-born director living in America, Ramona S. Diaz, got wind of the tale through a friend in Manila and thought "documentary!" (Diaz' earlier credits involve docs about her native country, including one on first lady and shoe-whore Imelda Marcos.)
In a sense, her Journey flick filmed itself, given its can't miss, Cinderella hook. But what makes it even sweeter than expected is the earnest charm of Pineda himself, as well as the band's slack-jawed awe for him. It's nice to watch the members marvel unendingly over their new find, while Pineda himself presents an ideal image of gratitude and hard work. In much of the footage from a U.S. tour, he's suffering from throat problems, yet he powers through. To seal its beamy vibe, the movie doesn't touch on any past, gnarly issues with Perry.
In its stead, there's lots of footage shot in Manila, following Pineda's family story, and a show Journey themselves played for the local throngs.
The plot also has a cross-cultural resonance. It demonstrates the shrinking world in the Internet age as well as providing a smart blow against racism back here. Given the fact that no Asian rock band has ever had a huge U.S. career, Pineda's placement in Journey may provide the highest profile platform ever for someone of his race. Don't think American Filipinos don't know it. There's generous footage of them treating Pineda as a godsend, and, hopefully, a sign of their future. It's a theme winning enough to woo even the staunchest Journey foe.
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