The fast-track to rock superstardom is an alluring proposition for the fame-hungry X Factor generation, and the trajectory of Ramona S. Diaz’s entertaining Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (2012) feels like it’s been ripped from a Hollywood narrative feature. The publicised search for a replacement singer certainly isn’t new. The surviving members of INXS led a cynical reality show campaign to find a front man replacement, while the story of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, the singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was hired to join the real thing, formed the basis for the limp 2001 Mark Wahlberg vehicle Rock Star. What sets this doc apart from those is the band’s unconventional means of finding a replacement.
Arnel Pineda was a 40-year-old Filipino singer plucked from obscurity in 2007 to join revered rock band Journey as their lead singer. Discovered via YouTube, Pineda was contacted by the band’s guitarist Neal Schon requesting he fly half way across the world for a week’s trial. Not only were Journey suitably impressed with what they found, but they also discovered a vocal star-in the-making. Thankfully, Diaz doesn’t focus too much on this early audition period, and instead jumps right into the heavy US touring circuit, which is the real baptism of fire for the new member. Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey benefits greatly from having a strong personality as its focal point. Pineda is charismatic, self-effacing and humorous – his impoverished upbringing adding further resonance to the rags-to-riches story arc.
That upbeat, Cinderella-like angle does grow a little weary at times however, and the hardship faced by Pineda constantly being on the road and so far away from his family is skirted over (there’s a feeling that tougher moments were perhaps left on the cutting room floor). We’re also offered a band bio which runs alongside Pineda’s story, showcases the phenomena that are Journey (something which eluded UK audiences until the advent of Glee), and the documentary is very much geared around the good time, up-beat aura the band project. At 100 minutes, the film runs dangerously close to outstaying its welcome, but like its subject matter, Diaz’s Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey is both amiable and appealing (no prizes for guessing which tune is saved for Pineda’s triumphant home gig in Manila). Just don’t expect to see an accurate portrait of life on the road, will you.