Friday, August 19, 2011

In Theaters: Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Poster and IMPAwards link
I think I’ve worked out why Glee: The 3D Concert Movie isn’t doing well. Though the show is still popular despite a backlash in some quarters, for a good portion of its audience it’s enough of a guilty pleasure that they wouldn’t want to be seen in public buying tickets to a film of a stage revue. I’m probably projecting my own self-consciousness here, though. Going to see this was like going to see one of the Human Centipede movies- I bought the ticket at an electronic kiosk and did my best to remain inconspicuous as I walked to the theater. I’m not a proud man but the film, in its earnest and celebratory embrace of Gleemania, just seems to invite brickbats. But if you’re still Gleek and proud, it’s actually a fun experience: inessential, but pleasant fanservice that, despite some uneven choices in presentation, contains a lot of fairly talented individuals giving good performances.

The film records a concert from the live tour the Glee cast did not too long ago, between seasons 2 and 3 (which hasn’t started airing yet.) The cast did this last season as well, and as the show’s popularity has grown, the concerts have attracted a large audience of loyal Gleeks. Between numbers we get interviews with the cast which seem to be at least half in character, as well as a lot of talking head spots with the fans. Rounding it out, we have in-depth profiles on three fans who fit the whole “be proud of not fitting in” ethos of the program- there’s a cheerleader who’s also a little person, a gay teen who recounts the rough road he had being outed, and a girl with Asperger’s who idolizes Brittany S. Pierce (which, let’s face it, is what more people should do.)

The whole “fan profile” thing is the film’s most ill-advised decision. It’s a little shameless in tying Glee to a message of empowerment and individuality and loving who you are, and it definitely feels at least a little like the show patting itself on the back. But the fans themselves are charming people, and on balance the segments focus more on them than on how the show changed their life (and even acknowledges it didn’t at all in one case.) It still feels a bit like padding though, and unnecessary padding given that this is obviously not the whole show (a number of sketches have been trimmed, including one featuring Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester that popped up in previews, and the songs are also cut a bit from their full versions.)

What we see of the show works pretty well. The cast’s voices aren’t quite as processed as they are on air, and they all sound good. Heather Morris as Brittany pretty much steals the show, be it in her ultra-sexy Britney Spears number (which justifies the 3-D process in and of itself), her feature dancer status in other songs, or just contributing an awesome gesture or two in the background. That said, all the cast have gotten pretty good at working the crowd over two tours, and it’s fun to see them throw in little gestures or reactions to spice up the performance. I think 3-D may be a particularly good fit for concert pieces like this, especially with the number of dance numbers involved- it enhances the spectacle without getting in the way of anything, since the people on stage may as well be floating in space to begin with. Sadly, some cast members get the short shrift, notably Jenna Ushkowitz as Tina who has no on-screen solos.

Rounding out the affair are a few fun clips and vignettes, such as a very young “mini-Warbler” captured performing along at home, and Lea Michele as Rachel ruminating on the possibility that her idol Barbara Streisand may be in attendance. Nothing comes of this, but it’s a great bit of acting on her part, arguably the best she’s done Glee-wise. (It’s naturally followed by her standout rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.) Other parts feel like they don’t quite fit, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s appearance as Holly Holiday, as fun as she was on the show. It definitely kind of rushes to the ending, as though the filmmakers suddenly realized they shouldn’t let this run long, and I hope more shows up on the DVD release.

If you hate Glee, there’s obviously no reason whatsoever to see this. If you’re ambivalent, you probably won’t get too much out of it either. But for fans who didn’t actually catch the tour, it’s a nice substitute, and is worth catching while you can. The film is just over halfway through a limited two-week release and the box office obviously hasn’t been good enough for it to be held over, so if you want the full big-screen 3-D spectacle, get going. I had to push myself to see it, but in retrospect it’s better than I expected, and was a nice reminder of why I like this crazy thing to begin with. As obvious as the show’s “be proud of who you are!” message may seem, there are a lot of people who don’t actually hear that enough, and if nothing else the film does provide a little pop culture snapshot of an audience for whom that message was just what they needed. And there’s some fun singing and dancing. Nothing to be ashamed of.

Written by N/A
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen

Grade: B

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