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Britney Ever After

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // Unrated // February 19, 2017
List Price: $3.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted September 20, 2017 | E-mail the Author
It's easy to scoff at the idea of a Britney Spears biopic for various reasons, but it makes sense. Spears' "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)" is arguably responsible for the current era of pop music, reflected today in the similarly bubblegum-colored, sexy-sweet stylings of Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. There's also something a bit more intriguing about Spears, who lived a tabloid-friendly life just before the era of TMZ. Spears' career has been back on track and going smoothly for awhile now, but the moment where Spears abruptly shaved off all of her hair and swung an umbrella at paparazzi still lingers in the public consciousness as a crack in the veneer of music stardom. Sadly, Britney Ever After, a cheap Lifetime movie about the singer's career, isn't even good trash, lazily breezing through some of the star's greatest personal hits with only a hint of a purpose in mind.

The film uses the framing device of a documentary being made about Spears (Natasha Bassett) to flash back to key points in her life. The extremely shallow framework of the movie involves her waxing poetic about whether or not she's happy -- specifically, romantically satisfied. The answer to this question revolves primarily around her relationship with fellow Mouseketeer and pop megastar Justin Timberlake (Nathan Keyes), who arguably plays the movie's villain. A bit of side focus is also devoted to Spears' relationship with her parents, Lynne (Nicole Oliver) and James (Matthew Harrison), as well as Kevin Federline (Clayton Chitty) and managers / handlers like Larry Rudolph (Peter Benson) and Sam Lutfi (Benjamin Arce).

Right from the beginning, the pretense of Britney Ever After feeling like a real movie goes out the window with the editing, which rolls through a collection of places and scenes that don't seem to be connected by any rhythm or pacing. The characters' dialogue constantly references things happening in pop culture or details about Spears' personal life that come off like someone read a trivia book or two about her and then simply dropped them directly into the film. Moments in her career, including various VMA performances, her and Timberlake's infamous denim red carpet outfits, and various hairstyles and looks are presented in a nearly Epic Movie-style fashion where the only artistic goal seems to be getting the audience to recognize those things from reality, a shallow tactic that's further undermined by the film's obviously limited budget (no crowd reactions are ever shown after any of her performances -- not even stock footage of crowds -- and red carpet sequences of paparazzi and fans never seem to involve more than ten people on screen at a time).

Of course, the most obvious shortcoming of all is that Britney Ever After is an unauthorized documentary, meaning the movie can't actually include any of Britney Spears' music. As a result, the film avoids the making of "Hit Me Baby (One More Time)" completely, squeaks by on those VMA performances by highlighting moments where Spears covered Elvis or The Rolling Stones, and only shows her in the recording studio for a few seconds, laying down another cover. It's a weird, unspoken cloud that hangs over the movie, one that makes sense from a legal standpoint but will leave viewers wondering why Lifetime bothered without managing to get Spears' approval. The film is haunted by generic, nearly tuneless pop songs and an unmemorable score that do nothing to distract from the absence of work by the musician at the film's center.

Bassett, clearly cast more for her uncanny valley resemblance to Spears than anything else, gives a performance that is hard to judge. She does a decent job of switching between various tones as Spears ages, but her dialogue and dramatic arcs are so atrocious that there's no venue for any real talent to shine through. Ever After's version of Spears is never really an adult; at best she ages into a wistful teenager, crying, "Mama, I'm allowed to be sad!" in an exaggerated Southern twang when something bad happens. For most of the movie, watching Spears and the way the movie presents her reads more like a "Saturday Night Live" sketch than a serious dramatic portrayal (even aside from the fact that Bassett resembles Maya Rudolph about as much as Britney Spears). In one of the "documentary" asides, Lynne tells the camera, "She is talented, she is strong." The weird irony of Britney Ever After is that if it has a goal, it tries to generate sympathy for Spears by painting her as a helpless victim -- nothing like a biopic that makes you question whether the filmmakers even care for their subject.

One trick with slick packaging is that it's easy to give a very low-budget production a bit of a polish. Britney Ever After's cover art is nothing special, but it does offer a certain photo-spread polish that makes one assume the movie is of a slightly higher caliber of production. The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Amaray case, and there is a matte cardboard slipcover.

The Video and Audio
In addition to being a very bad movie, Lionsgate's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation are oddly underwhelming. This is clearly a low-budget, digital production, but the cinematography aims for a weird soft focus effect that simply makes the DVD look oddly low-res. Colors are inconsistent, and there are occasional issues with aliasing, black crush, and faint banding. The sound mix for the film is anemic and lacking in convincing atmospheres, especially the sparse and distractingly small-scale crowd sequences, not to mention, for a music biopic, the film contains a surprising lack of music. Hard to believe this is a full 5.1 surround track. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are included.

The Extras
Other than pre-menu trailers for Toni Braxton: The Movie Event, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, and The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, there are no extras.

Britney Ever After is exploitation at its most craven, desperately stringing together the thinnest veneer of a story out of gossip and complete fabrication to cash in on someone's celebrity. Skip it.

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