Big screen, big voices, little else
By Jen Chaney
Friday, Aug 12, 2011
In the two years since "Glee" premiered on Fox, it has evolved from a quirky TV series about show choir oddballs to a revenue-generating pop culture juggernaut, one that has spawned 11 CDs, a series of young adult novels, multiple DVD box sets, two concert tours and a reality show spin-off.
Now we have the apparent next step in the "Glee"-volution: "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," a 90-minute, multi-dimensional "Glee"-a-thon that contains highlights from a recent stop at New Jersey's Meadowlands during this summer's "Glee" tour. Filled with infectiously energetic renditions of pop tunes plucked straight from the repertoires of the show's competitive crooning groups, the New Directions and the Warblers - from Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " to Pink's "Raise Your Glass" - the movie is entertaining and, admittedly, completely unnecessary. Yes, it works well enough in theaters. But it also would have worked just as well as a heavily promoted special television event broadcast over Thanksgiving weekend.
Of course, hard-core "Glee" fans will undoubtedly give it two thumbs up, as it delivers the key things they desire from a "Glee" movie: a chance to watch their favorite cast members (Kurt! Santana! Brittany!) perform "Born This Way" on a much larger screen, and to get even closer to this season's breakout heartthrob, Darren Criss, courtesy of 3-D technology. Slightly less committed Gleeks, on the other hand, will likely tap their feet while simultaneously wondering why they just paid upwards of $14 for a ticket to see something they can get every week for free.
(By the way, Gleeks, here are some answers to your inevitable questions: yes, Chord Overstreet is featured in the movie even though he's been booted off the show. And, yes, Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester - the track-suited tyrannical cheerleading coach and noted anti-glee clubber - really was cut from the film.)
The "Glee" movie may be a concert flick, but director Kevin Tancharoen has sprinkled it with liberal dashes of the documentary "American Teen," shoehorning vignettes about young "Glee" fans - including a high school cheerleader who also happens to be a little person and a gay 19-year-old who recalls his struggles with coming out - between all of those covers of Queen and Cee Lo Green. All of this is naturally designed to celebrate the core principles of the "Glee" ethos: that no matter how unconventional you might be, you are worthy of love and the opportunity to belt out a Katy Perry song in an exceedingly large arena.
But in the case of Josey, an Asperger syndrome sufferer so obsessed with "Glee" that the names of her dog, cat and car were all ripped from the show, there are some genuinely touching moments, particularly when she speaks through tears about how her admiration of "Glee's" Brittany S. Pierce (Heather Morris) helped her to socially engage again. " 'Glee' is like my medicine," she says at one point.
On the other hand, footage of a 3-year-old boy who mimics Criss's dance moves, even donning an itty-bitty navy Dalton Academy blazer with red trim, will be viewed as utterly adorable or as evidence that a watchdog group specifically devoted to premature "Glee" exposure needs to be formed ASAP.
While "Glee" fans provide some fun diversions in "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie," the main event is really the cast members and their vocal cords. And they do not disappoint. If nothing else, this motion picture is further proof that "Glee's" stars are immensely talented, as evidenced by, among other fine performances, Amber Riley's ability to fill all the available air in the Meadowlands with her tsunami of a voice during Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way." Oh, and if you don't get a chill up your spine when Lea Michele sings "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl," call your chiropractor. You might be missing a spine.
In the end, "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" is actually a perfect representation of "Glee" the TV show: At its best, it's joyful, uplifting and even, occasionally, moving. And at its worst, it's a propaganda piece designed to win our undying loyalty to a TV show/cash cow that advocates for the little guy even though it's clearly turned into a diva.
Contains some thematic elements, brief language and some sensuality, but nothing more objectionable than one sees on an episode of "Glee."