Movie Review: "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience"

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 28, 2009

An announcement preceding "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" instructs moviegoers to silence their cellphones and pagers. It doesn't say anything about muting their hormones, though, so "The 3D Concert Experience," which opened yesterday, takes on an extra dimension, what with all that unbridled audience participation -- even at a 9 a.m. showing.

It's a Pavlovian thing. See swarthy (and shirtless!) teen heartthrob Joe Jonas standing backstage in 3-D: scream. See Joe's kid brother, Nick Jonas, singing with that pensive puppy-dog look in 3-D: scream. See Kevin Jonas, the old man of the sibling-pop trio, spinning in 3-D circles while -- hey, there's 3-D Joe jumping in the background! Eeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaagh!!

This is not, then, a movie for quiet contemplation or shushing other audience members or telling them to sit down or sit still. Quite frankly, it's not a movie for anybody to whom the Jonas Brothers must be explained or defended, either. (Quickly: They're handsome, wholesome, purity-ring-wearing brothers who play impossibly catchy and completely inoffensive power-pop songs. And they're better at the form than most adults are willing to admit publicly, disastrous Grammy duet with Stevie Wonder notwithstanding).

Anyway, featuring ample three-dimensional excerpts of the band's 2008 tour interspersed with behind-the-scenes (but not always 3-D) footage, this film is exclusively for the young JoBros fans who tend to hyperventilate at the very thought of the newest kings of the massive puppy-pop market. To them, this is the answer to "The Last Waltz." To the rest of you, rated G means go away.

The tradition of young girls losing their minds en masse for dreamy young male singers is older than rock-and-roll itself, so director Bruce Hendricks makes an obvious nod to one of the biggest names on the teen-idol continuum: The movie opens with the brothers running through the streets of Manhattan, a mob of hysterical fans pretending to be in hot pursuit, a la the Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night."

Nice reference, but a dangerous data point. (The brothers might be able to hang with Badfinger, but not the Beatles.) And really, the staged homage isn't necessary. There are plenty of real moments that capture those fan hysterics. "I'm gonna throw up!!!" one excited girl exclaims, and another is shown having trouble breathing. Even the brothers themselves seem in awe of the adulation: When their SUV approaches Times Square for a midnight album-release party, the Jonases appear genuinely floored by the massive turnout. Key quote from inside the SUV: "Oh, my gosh."

Filmed at concerts in Anaheim, Calif., and at New York's Madison Square Garden, the performance parts of "Jonas Brothers" will be mostly familiar to anybody who caught the band's "Burnin' Up" tour, which played to 1.3 million fans last year, according to Pollstar.

The main difference: Theoretically, you can actually hear the band's outsize hooks, muscular melodies, buzzing power chords and bright harmony vocals on songs such as "B.B. Good," "S.O.S," "Burnin' Up" and "Hold On" as the squeals are turned way down in the audio mix. Alas, moviegoers are picking up the slack.

Most of the slower JoBros songs have been left in the editing bay, in the interest of keeping the movie moving. And move it does, with quick editing cuts and constant motion onstage and off, whether it's Joe Jonas (19, the hot one) doing a roundhouse kick, Nick Jonas (16, the cute one) doing somersaults or Kevin Jonas (21, the other one) goofing off backstage.

The movie's running time is right around an hour and 15 minutes, which seems right for the short-attention-span set. Still, a wobbly duet with opening act Demi Lovato is included because, well, it's a Disney movie, and Lovato, like the Jonas Brothers, is on the Disney roster as an actress and singer. (More synergy: The film includes footage of the JoBros on Disney-owned ABC's "Good Morning America," and the "3D Concert" soundtrack is out now on Disney's Hollywood Records. With songs playing on Radio Disney, natch.)

Also notable: Nashville star Taylor Swift makes a special cameo to perform "Should've Said No." It's a song with a universal message about female self-esteem. Given that Swift was later dumped by Joe Jonas via telephone, however, it sounds almost like a personal forecast.

The 3-D enhancements are especially eye-popping when drumsticks or guitar picks are thrown at the cameras and seem to continue spinning off the screen and into the cineplex, and also when the brothers spray the audience with foam, fired from hoses, in one of the weirdest moments of the "Burnin' Up" shows and, now, the movie.

Mostly, though, "The 3D Concert Experience" is about the Jonas Brothers reminding their young, screaming fans of the good old days of 2008.

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (76 minutes, at area theaters) is rated G for all-around goody-goodness.

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