Shawn Mendes, a 22-year-old Canadian folk-pop singer with a velour trill, is a loving puppy bard. Throughout his prolific career, three studio albums have been released since 2015—enough male croons in budding romance and blooming love and youth like modern-day Romeo hopping from muse to muse. His songs are as peppy and melodic as his person is honeyed and unthreatening.
In the post-Bieber era of democratised stardom, Wunderkind Mendes gained a loyal fan base of mainly young girls in his early teens after uploading his musical self-recordings to Vine. (The young singer’s life was only 2013 for the rest of us hoary crones.) Since then, his soulful teeny-bopper brand has evolved from a swoopy-haired guy With a guitar and a falsetto for a smart young man who will gladly encourage the camera crew to film him as a “contemplative” in the bathroom, bare pecs and all.
Shawn Mendes: In Wonder glided over me like a lilac cloud, and when it was done, I wasn’t sure I saw anything at all. Neither a rousing concert film nor a juicy “insider’s peek” chronicle of fame, In Wonder can best be described as pillow-soft agitprop, extended commercial teaching you in the Mendesverse ahead of his new album set to be released next month. (Both Mendes and his boss, Andrew Gertler, are listed as executive producers of credits, which tells you more about the purpose of the production than any particular scene.)
Lacking concentration, suspense or plot, In Wonder tracks Mendes through an introspective voiceover and trifling behind-the-scenes video as he zooms through the world tours and homecomings of Toronto. I’m not sure the listener will ever be able to hear one of his songs in full here. Instead, we’re peppered with small snippets of Mendes rehearsing or making a new song, or with a pop-star boyfriend, Camila Cabello in the bathroom. Mendes is a gorgeous guy. The film is stultifying.
Over 80 minutes, director Grant Singer immerses the audience in Mendes’ daily life: his jet-setting, his vocal accident, his songwriting method, his desperation to understand even an ounce of normality in his high-profile relationship. Mendes remains modest and reflective as he repeatedly recounts his love for the precious life he leads and the charming fans he enthuses. But this salt-of-the-earth bonhomie quickly starts to feel comfortable, when we seem to be barred from having any part of it that is not hopelessly endearing. In other words, it comes out as human, but never wholly human.
If you’re just a little familiar with Mendes’ discography, In Wonder does the bare minimum to get you to try something for yourself. Worse still, there’s not something tangible about his real-life at all.