Backstreet Boys: Show Em’ What You’re Made Of (2015)

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 7.5/10

It’s hard to believe that one boy band from Orlando who made girls scream their lungs out from the 90s has been making music for 20 years. While others wanted to write them off as has-beens, they’ve been pulling off successful tours and making several albums ever since. To help celebrate their longevity as a group, the band began filming a documentary about their history together and preparing for an anniversary tour. The result is a heartfelt, dramatic, and sometimes unsettling inside look at the best-selling boy band in the world.

Being together for such a long time there’s a lot for the boys to celebrate, which they do a lot in the film. There’s lots of moments of looking back at their major releases, biggest shows, and the numerous awards they’ve won over the years. Even though it’s expected, it’s still fun to revisit these moments and bask in the nostalgia. But the rewarding part of the film comes when they talk about the earliest days of the band when they were nobodies performing in high school gyms. The rare photos of five fresh faced guys, some who look way too young to be singing about love, make you smile and giggle. There’s also tons of great footage of their rehearsals, backstage antics, and rare performances fans rarely get to see. It’s a real treat for those who’ve followed their career since the 90s. It’s fun to hear them talk about their awful haircuts, garish costumes, and embarrassing moments.

Of course you can’t talk about the Backstreet Boys without mentioning their founder Lou Pearlman. Even though they were notoriously screwed by Pearlman, they approached the topic with respect and a calm you wouldn’t expect. They map out how they met him, how hard he worked them to become the best, and the seemingly good times. Then things started to go wrong. They’re not afraid to go into the lawsuit, the money they lost, and their feelings on Pearlman’s arrest, but one of the biggest shockers of his story is the connection to Nsync. One of the guys recounts how Pearlman pulled him aside and showed him a tape of the competition, who they later found out he had a hand in creating. They admit how they felt betrayed and played by Pearlman at this revelation. It also shines some lights on the great boy band rivalry of the 90s that so many fans remember.

This bounce between the good and bad is the basis for the documentary. Each of the members share their difficult moments, including AJ’s drinking habits, Nick’s broken family, the death of Kevin’s father, and Howie being pushed to the sidelines. The biggest revelation was Brian revealing he suffers from muscle tension dysphonia, which ultimately affects his vocal range. It’s something that obviously worries Brian and something he rarely talks about, which leads to a heated and uncomfortable scene with him and Nick. One minute there’s footage of them joking around and dancing, the next they’re at each other’s throats with Nick addressing the problems Brian’s voice presents the band. Any illusion of this band being brotherly and friendly all the time was shattered with this heated argument, which shows the issues they come across. Along with that, there’s a lot of crying in the film. Just about each member breaks out in tears and it’s a little awkward. You don’t know how to react to seeing your teenage crush bawling in front of a camera about his family life. At times it was almost too much where you start to wonder if some of the tears were prompted by the presence of the camera.

The rest of the film is filled with standard preparing for album/tour footage. The guys writing music, the guys in rehearsal, the guys talking about their expectations. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from other “making of” documentaries and is actually the least engaging part of the film. Of course it’s interesting to see their recording process and such, but it doesn’t really keep your attention for long and it doesn’t make the film stand out from other music documentaries out there. Also, some of the scenes of them returning to their hometowns were a little dramatic. After a while the heartwrenching stories, tears, and constant hugging grew too mushy. They laid that portion of it on a little too thick.

While this isn’t the best or most groundbreaking music documentary, it is entertaining and insightful. There’s a lot of rare footage and photos that make it worth watching at least once. It also gives us the Backstreet story that fans haven’t heard before. It actually provides new information and revelations, rather than rehashing information we’ve known since the 90s. At least when watching it, the feeling that they’re only making music to for money never feels true. Seeing what they go through and the challenges they face and are willing to overcome show they still care about the group. One thing is for sure, you’ll be in the mood for some classic BSB after viewing.

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