I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the television series Glee. Apart from the 2010 Halloween special themed around Rocky Horror (which I enjoyed for obvious reasons), I haven’t watched a single episode. This means, of course, that I know virtually nothing about the setting, the plot, or the characters – save for the fact that cover songs are prominently featured. Fortunately, these deficits didn’t prevent me from enjoying Glee: The 3D Concert Movie. Although it lacks the fascinating cautious subtexts of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and while it certainly isn’t as entertaining or insightful as Michael Jackson’s This Is It, the film is harmless, exuberant fun from start to finish. Fans, or “gleeks,” will marvel at their favorite stars (with the exceptions of Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch, who are not featured), while newbies can simply take in the pop standards, all sung with tremendous high-spiritedness.
The film intercuts backstage interviews and fan testimonials with footage from the Glee Live! In Concert! tour, specifically the performance at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. We see much of the principal cast, all incredibly talented, singing at one point or another. This would include Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith, Kevin McHale, and Heather Morris, among others. Some highlights: Michele’s soulful rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”; Colfer’s solemn take on “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” reminiscent of the version sung in Across the Universe; McHale’s version of “The Safety Dance,” in which his character fantasizes about being free from his wheelchair; “I’m a Slave 4 U” as sung by Morris, who is clearly far more qualified to sing than Brittany Spears; Monteith’s faithful cover of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.” The entire company opens the show with “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which is sung so well that only the original version by Journey tops it.
We even get a special guest appearance by Gwyneth Paltrow, whose magnificent cover of Cee Lo’s “Forget You” makes me wonder why she isn’t actively pursuing a career in music. Man, can that woman sing.
The concert portions are the only ones presented in 3D, which I learned to expect after the release of Never Say Never. As odd as I find this method of filmmaking – it should either be one way or the other – it at least gave me the opportunity to slip off my 3D glasses every once in a while and take in a picture that was noticeably brighter. This is how I watched the fan testimonials and the backstage interviews. The latter were surprisingly disappointing, in large part because director Kevin Tancharoen set aside almost no time for them. What little he does provide us with is hampered by the fact that the actors remain in character. So I guess I’ve been wrong to call them backstage interviews – they’re skits made to look like backstage interviews. Morris is free to be Brittany on stage, but I see no reason why she can’t be herself as she’s getting her hair done in her dressing room.
Thankfully, the fan testimonials are far more engaging. We’re given brief insights into the lives of three self-confessed gleeks, all of whom believe the diversity and optimism of the show allowed them to come out of their shells. We meet Josey, an anxiety-riddled homebody with Asperger’s syndrome. Her love of the show enabled her to attend a concert, something she would normally never do. We also meet Janae, who, despite being a little person, is on her school’s cheerleading team and will attend prom with a boy of average height. Finally, we meet Trenton, a gay nineteen-year-old who was outed against his will in junior high. Since Glee, he has been able to live openly.
Fandom is typically the most fascinating part of a cultural phenomenon, as Star Trek, Star Wars, cult films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even musical acts like Michael Jackson and The Beatles have clearly demonstrated. Gleeks, as is the case with any fan base, have found something that speaks to them on the most personal of levels. The message of Glee is obvious, but good to hear nonetheless: It’s not only okay to be different, it’s encouraged. In the film, the cast visualizes it with their rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”; each member wears a white T-shirt, all labeled according to their respective character’s personality, orientation, or physical attributes. It can be argued that this doubles as satire, since labeling goes against just about everything the show stands for. Or so I’ve heard.
As much as I empathized with the gleeks (you’d have to be pretty damn cold-hearted to not identify with them on some level), what I really responded to were the concert sequences. The music was infectious, the singing was professional, and the choreography was energetic. I was letting it all happen to me, and I was having fun. I probably would have liked Glee: The 3D Concert Movie even more, however, had the filmmakers reached a consensus on the 3D effects. Immersive experience or flat image – make up your mind. Judging by the brighter picture, it should come as no surprise to you that I would have opted for a traditional 2D presentation. Besides, I cannot think of a movie that benefits less from 3D than a filmed concert. Total immersion is almost impossible to achieve when your movie is filled with quick cuts, multiple camera angles, flashy light effects, and frenetic stage activity.
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20th Century Fox