In the mid-‘90s, I was a young man finishing his master’s degree oblivious to the world around him. While I was head deep in research barely seeing the light of day, the Back Street Boys and N’Sync mesmerized the outside world around me. The mastermind behind both pop groups was a man named Lou Pearlman, who just a few years ago died in prison. Director Aaron Kunkel tells the infamous story of Pearlman in The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story.
Kunkel splits his film up into three parts. The first part is the draw of the film—the creation of the two hottest boy bands, Back Street Boys and N’Sync, and how it ended? The story is told through interviews with the film’s executive producer Lance Bass and his mother Diana, AJ McLean, Chris Kirkpatrick, and JC Chasez. He also brings in Aaron Carter and O-Town’s Ashley Parker Angel, who worked with the man on the tail end of his music career. Pearlman auditioned hundreds of singers from the various Orlando theme parks and made them stars; they lived a lavish lifestyle; all involved will admit it was the best time of their lives.
“…mastermind behind both pop groups was a man named Lou Pearlman, who just a few years ago died in prison.”
That is until N’Sync’s popularity eclipsed Back Street Boys. To spur competition, Pearlman would pit the two bands against each other and create an incredible conflict-of-interest. And then the money. The day it all ended with the presentation of their big bonus check, a lot of unhappy boys, and leading to a stunning contract revelation. Watch the doc for this one people; it gets juicy.
Part two goes into Pearlman’s life before music. Pearlman is a big dreamer and burgeoning businessman, especially from a young age. You start to see the beginnings of Pearlman’s inflated ego and how he starts presenting himself as a much bigger deal than he really was. He was a young man, who learned how to bullshit his way to success and convince others that he is a big deal.
Part three is Pearlman’s life after N’Sync, when his shine tarnished. It covers his attempt to recreate the magic with the television show Making the Band and then his sketchy scheme to return to financial prominence by selling financial investments that ultimately become a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
“Did Pearlman over time fool himself and believe in his god-like powers of self-confidence and deception?”
In the end, Pearlman was a slimebag, who stole millions from friends, family, and unwitting seniors. He ultimately got what he deserved, and Kunkel does a masterful job telling Pearlman’s story as a cautionary tale.
From my point of view, The Boy Band Con is an intriguing character study of Lou Pearlman. I really get into this stuff. On the surface, you’d think he’s a conman, and you would be right. To me, I begin to wonder if this guy is an evil swindler or if he really believed his own hype. He could definitely talk a good game, which allowed him to dupe anyone within hearing distance. Did Pearlman over time fool himself and believe in his god-like powers of self-confidence and deception?
Fans of the 90s boy band movement will not be disappointed with The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story. It does was a documentary should do: present the facts, make its case, and specifically about the 90s—stir up fond memories of our youth. You’re going to see a lot of archival footage and music videos from Back Street Boys, N’Sync, and even O-Town. Kunkel also gets to the people who know Pearlman the best. Anyone who wants to dig deep into a fascinating and severely flawed man will not be disappointed either.
The Boy Band Con: the Lou Pearlman Story (2019) Directed by Aaron Kunkel. Featuring Lance Bass, Diana Bass, AJ McLean, Chris Kirkpatrick, Aaron Carter, and JC Chasez. The Boy Band Con: the Lou Pearlman Story premiered at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
8.5 out of 10 stars