Glee 3D (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Glee 3D (2011)

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The best part of concert films is how they capture the cultural zeitgeist of a particular moment in time.  The better of the films are able to tell some kind of story with the images and songs about how it felt to be alive and present during the performances captured on film.  Then there are films like Glee: The 3D Concert Movie which exist as little more than to prop up the show it's based on in the most melodic infomercial put to celluloid.

My experience with Glee the show is limited to the three episodes I had to force myself to watch.  I liked that the show tried to pain the outcasts in an attractive light but something always seemed to be off, much like the way Big Bang Theory throws some glasses on an otherwise attractive man and immediately labels him a nerd.  So the message is something I get behind, that we're all different but difficult in our own special ways, even if it's not always presented in the most original fashion (based on, positive as it is, not exactly the most original message).

Glee 3D dispenses of any sort of plot and just presents the team with very sparing backstage vignettes with the actors and actresses staying in character.  This is at least an interesting concept, thrusting a bunch of fictional role models into a situation played entirely for real to an adoring crowd that pulls something from a show now celebrating it's own fiction.  But this is a movie for the fans, not an intellectual exercise for the world, so now we have to question how well the film holds up on it's own.

The backstage moments almost give me reason to check the show out again because they're funny and establish personalities very quickly. They just disappear as soon as they're on-stage.

It's not lacking in energy, that much is a big plus.  All of the performers are very talented and weave in and out of multiple costumes and stage settings effortlessly putting out their main-stream karaoke hits.  Some of the renditions, Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and Barbara Streisand's "Don't Rain On My Parade", were excellently performed but brought out the tamest reactions from the crowd.  The rest of the songs played out like a karaoke fanatic's wet-dream of having backup dancers, live instrumentation and pyrotechnics.

I wish I could remember all of their names but aside from a name card introducing each of the Gleeks their personalities were buried under the songs.  The backstage portions could have helped flesh out the characters a little more for us newbies, but chose to focus on three or four of the roughly thirteen different stars that appeared onstage.  As it stands I remember Mercedes, because she had a voice as large as her stage presence (which is to say, very impressive), Kurt because he had a comically large bow-tie and Brittney because she humped the stage with such passion that by the end of the film I bore witness to a very strange double-standard about what's appropriate for kids.

See, the adult characters are completely absent except for one cameo by Gwyneth Paltrow who performs Cee-lo Green's "Fuck You" in its "Forget You" iteration.  So after the various performances that had characters grinding each other like the sexual revolution is alive and well we've still decided that kids hearing the word describing what they've seen is a bit too much.  Such is the power of language I suppose, but a bit strange considering that I was half-expecting to see stains form on the costumes as they enthusiastically gyrated around each other.

Then there's these gents. Dramatically lit in matching suits. I have no idea who they are or why they match, but in the proper light their suits are definitely stylish.

The other parts of the film are filled with people whose lives have been touched by Glee for the better.  These include a dwarf cheerleader, a girl diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and a boy who came out not by choice but because of some vindictive schoolmates.  These are all touching human interest pieces but the filmmakers made the cardinal mistake of making their stories far more interesting than anything else happening onstage.  The gay boy's story, in particular, was sad and empowering in a way that a bunch of karaoke props failed to be.

I have to admit that Glee does capture a certain zeitgeist of our moment but fails to actually say anything about it.  It's not that it had to, don't get me wrong, but I wonder what would have happened if the filmmakers really decided to surprise their audience by commenting on the ideas present in the movie.  What does it actually say now that celebrity means recycling the songs of other's into polished pop-nothing's?  Despite the unreality, how are people really drawing such inspiration from attractive performers that claim to be like them but bear little similarity?  What about that guy in the wheelchair who is able to walk all of a sudden, does that really send the right message?

I digress, because those are the kind's of quandaries I would not expect the film to tackle but I still wish that its ambition exceeded its execution.  Glee 3D is not a "thank you" to its fans so much as it's a reminder to keep watching.  Maybe you have a "misfit" friend who just needs some Rick Springfield in the guise of High School living.  If it helps, kudos, and the fact will simply remain that the Gleeks have their movie.  The rest of the population that remains unconvinced about its greatness will, sadly, have to remain unconvinced for another season or so.

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Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Directed by Kevin Tancharoen.
Starring the cast of Glee.

Posted by Andrew

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