Anyone worried that watching how their favorite K-Pop confection is prepared for world music domination will spoil “Blackpink” for them can rest easy. “BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky” doesn’t dive deep into the latest South Korean YG Entertainment-assembled pop creation.
It’s a superficial skim across the surface of these young women, groomed for stardom from their early teens, about as deep as their multi-lingual singles — “Ice Cream,” “Whistle” and that thumb-through-the-thesaurus, “Ddu-Du, Ddu-Du.”
Caroline Suh’s plainly officially-sanctioned “up close and personal” profile of the four 20ish singers may get a half-admission that this one regrets “memories” that might have been created by living with her family and going to high school, that another one might have worked up the temerity to ask permission to work with a different producer for a possible solo project.
Their producer, Teddy Park, can talk about them having drilled in “the techniques and tools that they need for the next ten years,” because that’s their shelf life — tops.
But while each individual comes off as distinct...ish, none of us are that interesting or that distinct at that age. And having lived in a bubble, trained at YG’s “academy,” living in a dorm for 4-6 years before being assembled and unleashed on Korea, Asia and then the world, living and traveling and performing together, never allowed to smoke, drink or “get a tattoo,” you can’t help but get the impression that “Light Up the Sky” isn’t remotely as informative or revealing as a movie about them after all this is over — maybe one made four years from now.
That’s no criticism of Jisoo, “Unnie,” the “older sister” of the group, of the blonde, guitar and keyboard-playing Rose’, of Lisa from Thailand or Jennie, the Korean New Zealander. They’ve been drilled to stand out only in that girl group/boy-band way. And in this case, they’re not even distinct in that regard, no “Sporty Spice” or “the rebel” or what have you.
Little hints are all we get of what their lives have really been like — boarding school Down Under, then selected for stardom, 14 hour workdays rehearsing and recording and trying out all during their teens.
That moment when a very young Miley Cyrus complained that her backup dancers almost dropped her right off the stage, captured in the “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” film, and having her parents shrug it off was more revealing than anything here.
Not having personal lives, and being younger than Katy Perry, there are no weepie meltdowns over the pressure or a lost romance as we saw in “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” Blackpink is as covered-up as rapper and former 1TYM (K-pop) member turned producer Teddy Park, always seen in a mask, here.
The film is built around their North American breakthrough at Coachella, although much of it was shot afterwards, sort of a “Here’s who they are now that you’ve been introduced to the music and choreography of their act” quickie.
“Light Up the Sky” is limited to the four women and Teddy Park as interview subjects, with a little interaction — a pilates instructor “friend” here, a makeup artist or outside producer there.
They go through “fittings,” where their wardrobe has been narrowed down (limiting choices) for them to “select” and “be creative.”
Their precision on stage doesn’t hide lip-synching any more than their revealing outfits and perfect twerks, bumps and grinds obscure how utterly sexless it all is. It’s like that infamous moment in Rolling Stone Magazine history, when sexless pop idol David Cassidy revealed a little pubic hair on the cover and ended his pop idol reign.
“Sexy but sexless” is what sells to this audience. Always has.
Hearing from their fans, how great it is that “they’re best friends” and all makes you long for the day when those fans figure out “It’s not like they have a choice.”
Speaking as a guy outside of their target demo, I’m always as interested in how the sausage is made. Over the years, I’ve covered Britney Spears as she transitioned from Disney kid to pop tart, interviewed Maurice Starr (NKOTB etc) and his more criminal copycat Lou Pearlman, covered NSync in court as they sought freedom from their indentured servitude contracts.
So what’s left out of “Light Up the Sky” is a LOT more interesting than anything we’re shown here. It’d have to be. Because even by the standards of “officially approved” pop phenom bios of the Bieber/Miley variety, this is weak tea.
MPAA Rating: TV-14, a bit of skin, popping and locking and shimmy shimmy shakes, etc.
Cast: Jennie Kim, Jisoo Kim, Lalisa Manoban, Roseanne “Rose'” Park, Teddy Park
Credits: Directed by Caroline Suh. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:19