Film Review: “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie”

by Jason LeRoy on August 12, 2011

Chris Colfer, Amber Riley and Jenna Ushkowitz in GLEE: THE 3D CONCERT MOVIE

starring: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Dianna Agron, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, Darren Criss, Jenna Ushkowitz, Heather Morris, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Chord Overstreet, Harry Shum Jr., Ashley Fink, Gwyneth Paltrow

directed by: Kevin Tancharoen

MPAA: Rated PG for thematic elements, brief language and some sensuality

Having already permeated every other form of media, the unstoppable teen karaoke juggernaut known as Glee gets its first feature length film this week. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is, first and foremost, yet another shameless cash grab from what is already one of the most profitable enterprises in the entire pop culture landscape. It feels threadbare, slapdash and hastily assembled, giving the fans the bare minimum in terms of new non-musical content. Although it can’t exactly be accused of false advertising. It is exactly what the title promises: a 3D concert film, featuring America’s most celebrated indentured servants being forced by evil overlord Ryan Murphy to do a full arena tour while on break from their already grueling show.

Anyone looking for an actual glimpse behind the scenes of Glee will be disappointed; the film functions entirely as a propagandist extension of the show, with the talented young cast stupidly forced to remain “in character” during the handful of backstage interludes. That way, we don’t hear so much as a single honest word from the actors about being shanghaied into this tour. I mean seriously, what the hell kind of contract did these poor kids sign? It seems especially cruel to make cast members like Dianna Agron, an actual movie actress with a promising film career, spend a big chunk of her break touring the country for a stage show in which she remains in the chorus on every song except one, her duet of “Lucky” with the maybe/maybe not returning Chord Overstreet.

Speaking of Ryan Murphy fuckery, you can also forget about seeing Jane Lynch reprising her performance as Sue Sylvester – at least not in the theatrical version, despite her presence in its TV spots. Murphy says her scenes were cut from the film, but will be featured on the DVD. Which, I mean, come the fuck on, Ryan Murphy: you made the kids from the show go on tour, you made the tour into a movie (a 3D movie, no less, meaning higher ticker prices), and now you’re making that movie a DVD with exclusive Sue content? (Not to mention the soundtracks, reality show, etc.) Aren’t you already cashing in enough, queen? Also getting the theatrical shaft is Jenna Ushkowitz, whose rendition of “Dog Days Are Over” is the only song on the soundtrack not featured in this cut of the film. Hopefully that will be on the DVD as well. Matthew Morrison isn’t in the film either, but I don’t think anyone is complaining about that.

On the subject of the 3D, this is possibly one of the most superfluous uses of it so far. It adds absolutely nothing to the film, unless you savor the illusion that Lea Michele is lunging directly into your personal space while screaming a Katy Perry cover. Actually, let me amend that statement: there is one thing that looks better in 3D. During one of the backstage interviews, Brittany (Heather Morris) says she hopes her boobs look good in 3D. I thought this was a joke. But oh my god, it is not a joke. When she comes onstage for her nearly R-rated dance to “I’m A Slave 4 U” and the backup dancers pull off her robe to reveal the skimpy Britney Spears video costume beneath…holy shit. I don’t know if something has happened surgically, but her boobs do look insane. And I mean that as a compliment. She has never looked sexier than in this film. It also lets her dance without the impediment of the show’s rapid-cut editing, allowing the audience to truly bask in her prodigious talent. And in her boobs.

While we’re on the subject of sex appeal, we might as well address the Darren Criss Factor. So look, we all know that Criss is a natural born heartthrob. His winning combination of charisma, wholesomeness and toothsome good looks seems genetically engineered to detonate the maximum number of teen ovaries possible. At least this was the case for the very young audience with which I shared my screening. Criss’ every glance, wink and shuffle was ample cause for ear-splitting shrieks. Granted, this reaction is not restricted to teen girls; similar noises can be heard during Glee viewing parties throughout the Castro. The film fully understands that Criss has become one of the show’s main draws; he sings lead on three songs – “Teenage Dream,” “Silly Love Songs” and “Raise Your Glass” – which is the most of any cast member other than Michele.

Sadly missing from the film is Criss’ onscreen love interest, Chris Colfer. Despite being by far the show’s most acclaimed and vital talent, Colfer is restricted to just one lead performance – his wrenching rendition of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Which, yes, is very moving. But we all know his take on “Rose’s Turn” is the real showstopper. Thankfully, the film does thrown a bone to the old queen contingent by including Colfer and Michele’s Barbra & Judy “Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy” duet.

The musical sequences are generally the most exciting elements of any Glee episode, given the bizarrely episodic and tail-chasing narrative structures the writers seem to prefer. Other than the one-liners written for Lynch, Morris and Naya Rivera as Santana, the songs are the show’s crown jewels. And the film includes some good ones. Mark Salling’s lusty, ebullient “Fat Bottomed Girls” makes the cut, although its recipient, Ashley Fink (as Lauren Zizes) is sidelined with barely a word spoken onscreen. Kevin McHale (Artie) gets a few showcase moments, such as “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” which also features the astonishing dance work of Harry Shum Jr. (Mike), and “Safety Dance,” which allows McHale to demonstrate his own dance prowess out of his character’s wheelchair within the framework of a dream sequence.

The invaluable Rivera pays de facto tribute to the late Amy Winehouse (typing that still makes me want to cry) with her rendition of Winehouse’s Mark Ronson-produced cover of “Valerie,” as well as a duet with the show’s most underutilized talent, Amber Riley, on the Phil Spector-produced Tina Turner classic “River Deep, Mountain High.” Gwyneth Paltrow even shows up to reprise her unnervingly likeable turn as Holly Holliday, giving us yet another live rendition of “Forget You” (I’m personally a bigger fan of her “Do You Wanna Touch” cover, but whatever). As for Cory Monteith, he is also in the movie.

And lest the film be accused of being a 100% self-serving and transparent commercial for the show, we are also given a fair bit of fan material. Far too much time is allotted to montages of fans standing outside the arenas shrieking the names of their favorite characters. Aside from some spectacularly tragic-looking people and a pair of gays who nearly get into a Kurt vs. Blaine slapfight, there is nothing to be gained from these segments.We also get three inspirational bios of Glee fans who overcame adversity in their lives…with help from the show, of course. The obligatory “It Gets Better” coming-out story features a kid who was outed in almost the exact same way I was, but that’s another story for another time. Try having that shit happen to you in 1995, kid. That was pre-Ellen.

Anyway. I have obviously written way too many words on a very simple topic, but one which provokes a strong reaction in me. As someone who has seen every episode of Glee, I maintain that it is an infuriatingly uneven and frequently mediocre show, but one that I will never stop watching. If for no other reason, the show’s existence has been validated by its handling of the Kurt storyline, given life and breath by Colfer’s trailblazing performance. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie may be a shameless cash grab suffering from the same messianic delusions as the show itself, but it’s also just a harmless little treat for the fans to tide them over until the show’s third season begins. And if the girl sitting behind me was right, I may be a bit too far beyond Glee‘s target demo to be criticizing it so seriously. “I’m almost 20,” she bemoaned, embarrassed, to her sympathetic younger friends, as I sunk in my seat. “Am I even allowed to still be watching Glee?”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jen August 12, 2011 at 8:46 am

maybe my secret but not so secret shame needs to crawl back into the closet. i’m way too old for this.

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