Thus begins the wildly implausible and totally enthralling story of how Arnel Pineda – former street kid from Manila – became the new Steve Perry, helped Journey score their first platinum album ever, and now travels around the world playing to sold out stadium crowds.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a soft spot for Journey about a mile wide (and not just because they have best musical shout out to the Motor City in all of rock and roll). So, as a Journey fan and the daughter of native Detroiters who’s a sucker for a good Cinderella story, the film bordered on a religious experience.
As a filmmaker who’s constantly working to hone my own craft, it was about 20 minutes too long and lacked a clear narrative arc, especially when it came to Diaz’s coverage of the band’s history and own trajectory. And whatever HAPPENED to Steve Perry, anyway? The question looms large and never really gets answered. That said, Arnel and his story are thoroughly riveting, the band is actually refreshingly humble and easy to connect with, and watching the transformation and rebirth of both Journey and the kid from Manila is a pretty powerful experience.
There are so many moments in the film that are documentary gold, but the final concert scene where native son made good comes home, complete with close-up on wife wiping away tears, holding baby as she watches her husband perform for tens of thousands of adoring, screaming fans as the wind whips her hair was straight out of Hollywood. It’s like you’re pulling so hard for Pineda that you’re pulling for Diaz, too, even when the film falls short. All in all, it’s a story that could only happen in America, covered in pixie dust. Well shot and totally worth seeing.