Directed by: Ramona S. Diaz
Stars: Arnel Pineda, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain
The basic framework of the rock ‘n roll documentary was established so long ago that the essential parody of the form, This Is Spinal Tap, was made nearly 30 years ago. Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey fits that framework almost to a T. It follows the band Journey throughout the course of their 2008 tour for the album Revelation. Band interviews are interspersed with historical footage, meetings with celebrities, and adoring fans. It’s fairly average stuff.
What elevates this documentary, and makes it worth watching by people other than the hardcore Journey fans, is Arnel Pineda. His story is fairly well known: Neal Schon, long time guitarist for the band, found his clips on YouTube while looking for a new lead singer for the band. He was brought in for an audition, and became the singer. What hasn’t been well known up to this point is Pineda’s back-story, starting out homeless in Manila and working endlessly to become a professional singer.
Arnel Pineda is the absolute star of the film. He’s very aware of how incredible it is that he found himself as lead singer of Journey, and his interviews, given mainly in Tagalog, show him to be humbled by the opportunity he’s been given. Plus, what a singer!
The other members of the band feel like supporting players here. There are some fun reaction shots of the band watching Pineda on stage — don’t blink or you’ll miss some excellent Ross Valory moments. The best band scenes are where Jonathan Cain is teaching him how to properly exercise his vocal cords and giving him advice for singing with a cold. You can tell he’s a concerned mentor, and looks to be more invested in Pineda’s success than anyone else in the group.
The movie drags toward the end, as all the most interesting bits happen in the beginning, but the big finale does feel glorious so it is worth sticking around to the end. This really is just your average rock ‘n roll road film, but there is a joy to watching Arnel Pineda become a star that keeps it fun until the very end.
Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey opens today at The Sundance Kabuki for a one week run.