Backstreet’s back? They’ve never left! This new documentary centered on one of the most successful boy bands of this generation follows the Backstreet Boys over two years as they plan their 20th anniversary album and tour in 2013. Even if you haven’t been following their career since the early 2000s, BSB has been consistently releasing albums and touring, even when Kevin temporarily left the group in 2006.
The documentary begins with all five singers reunited and working on their new album. Then it slowly moves to each member revisiting their childhood, reminiscing about their highs and lows, and talking with those who encouraged them and their vocal gifts at young ages. These scenes are almost flawlessly integrated with interviews from members of the group as well as archival footage of their early years. We also get a glimpse into a highly passionate meeting discussing their upcoming tour where tempers run high.
While the documentary starts off slow, it’s interesting to get a glimpse into the band members’ lives doing regular, everyday things with each other like cooking, playing basketball, and hiking through some gorgeous trails. The pace begins to pick up towards the middle of the film when each member confronts their past, spurring a wide range of emotions from everyone. Even I found myself empathising with them at some points.
The last 30 minutes become very intense and emotional when the boys finally confront each other over very real issues and struggles they are facing before going on tour with some leftover baggage. Despite some of the nasty things they yell at each other, it is clear that they all care for one another and will support each other through any struggle a member faces. It is also clear that AJ, Brian, Howie, Kevin, and Nick put lot of pressure on themselves to put on a good show, which is admirable from a fan’s standpoint. It is evident that they are a group of wonderful singers who really care about their craft.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a proper documentary had the band not discussed the man who brought them all together in the first place: Lou Pearlman, now serving a jail sentence for running a huge Ponzi scheme and scamming investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Backstreet Boys have mixed feelings about the man who was like a second father and brought them to fame. Seeing and hearing about the complexity of their relationship with Lou from their beginning until 2006 was the most interesting segment as neither band member shies away from sharing both the good and the bad about Lou. They even go to see his old, abandoned home in Florida, where they made many memories years before, leaving them with mixed emotions for the filmmakers to capture.
Although there is a delightful amount of old home videos, early BSB footage, raw emotion, and insightful reflections, the overall filming came off lackluster at several parts. Some contemporary footage was unnecessary, while more dramatic segments seemed to be cut off too soon. Throughout various interviews, members of BSB always seem to be alluding to certain specific details about themselves and their lives as if the audience knows what they are talking about, but it only becomes clear towards the end, if at all. It’s easy to forgive some of the slower paced segments of Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of as it displays the boys’ love of singing and balancing their hectic lives, but there’s a lack of depth. The documentary only seems to have scratched the surface of these five men, which I suppose is understandable as far as privacy is concerned, but I certainly was left feeling like there could have been more. Ultimately, this documentary really only catered to my nostalgia, and while it’s thoroughly enjoyable, it could have been introspective on a deeper level.