Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of takes fans on a roller coaster ride with one of the world’s best-selling boy bands of all time, and we experience the highs and lows of each member’s journey from boyhood to manhood.
The film focuses on the group’s 20th year reunion (yes, it’s been 20 years) following the much-anticipated return of Kevin Richardson in 2012, who amicably left the group in 2006 to pursue other interests. The group celebrates with a worldwide tour, and takes an in-depth look back at their route to stardom.
Each boy (or man, rather) takes us to their hometown where each of them got their jumpstart to fame. There are some laughs and, inevitably, some tears, as each member speaks of their youth and what they’re anxious and excited about with regard to their future.
The main question, as raised by member A.J. McLean which underlies the entire film, is this: “What do you do when you’re a full-grown man in a boy band?”, but unfortunately, the film never fully answers. Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of seems to tread lightly on personal issues, and fails to delve deeper into the band’s personal struggles to give a greater understanding of what each individually is presently experiencing, as they come to terms with their careers, and really their lives, as members of a boy band and beyond.
In between the somewhat flat-falling sentimental stories told by each member, we get glimpses of their preparation for their 20th anniversary world tour. There are snippets of problems that they’re currently facing as in one scene, Nick gets angry at Brian (the supposed lead vocalist) for failing to understand the effect that his fragile vocal condition has on the group.
It’s often dramatic even if not reaching its fullest potential, and these issues are packaged together with a number of other personal and group travails which serve as obstacles to the group’s coalition along the way. For example, there’s talk of member A.J.’s drug and alcohol addiction, and recounting of the band’s history with Lou Pearlman, who is currently serving a prison sentence for various financial scandals.
Unfortunately, these emotional issues are only briefly touched upon, and are interjected with moments that celebrate the group’s preparation for the tour. There’s footage of masses of screaming fans, and rehearsals that show how much more out of shape these ‘boys’ are; Nick Carter, the youngest member of the group is now 35, and it’s a bit strange to think that he’s been doing some of these routines since he was 12. Altogether, it’s a shame that more of these moments were not further expounded on, as they evidence that there was a lot of material that director Stephen Kijak could have worked with, but didn’t.
All things said and done, this film is one that Backstreet Boys fans will enjoy. If you’re a self-professed die-hard fan like myself, you’ll find it hard not to get excited when a song you recognise starts playing, and feel the urge to join in and sing along. Even for newcomers, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of is engaging enough in giving a brief look at the history of the band and their plans for the future. The documentary definitely succeeds in serving as a platform to celebrate the band’s return and their 20 years together.
The boys are back, or shall I say, Backstreet’s back.