Early in the new Backstreet Boys documentary Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, group member Nick Carter ponders the criticism faced by boy bands, and makes a comparison to Pinocchio: “He was manufactured, but he turned into a real boy.”
The evolution of Carter and his colleagues — not into boys, but into men — is the subject of the film, opening Friday, which follows the recording of the Backstreet Boys’ 2013 album, In A World Like This, and preparation for its corresponding tour. That trek marked the 20th anniversary of the pop group, which was assembled by now-disgraced mogul Lou Pearlman (who later launched ‘N Sync) and enjoyed massive success with albums such as the 1999 blockbuster Millennium and hits such as As Long As You Love Me, Shape Of My Heart and I Want It That Way.
Personal histories, dilemmas and aspirations come into play in Show ‘Em. Kevin Richardson, 43 — who left the group in 2006, then returned in 2012 — gets choked up recounting the final stages of his father’s terminal cancer more than two decades ago. Brian Littrell, 39, chronicles the voice problems that have plagued him in recent years, involving muscles around his vocal cords constricting and “a disconnect” with “the part of my brain that sends signals to my voice.”
Littrell has been through “vocal therapy and neurological therapy, where I listen to white noise. … I just try to be the best that I can be, and I think I’m better today than I was four or five months ago.” His condition created some tension before that; in a rather heated meeting shown in the film, Carter expresses concerns about Littrell’s ability.