REVIEW: Opportunist Glee: The 3D Concert Movie Deserves a Slushie to the Face
One of the running gags in Fox's effervescent hit high school series Glee is that no matter how things occasionally come up roses for the show choir freaks and geeks of McKinley High, there's always someone, slushie in hand, waiting to take the Gleeks down a peg or two back to cold, brutal reality. Ironically, it's that same multicolored frozen treat, globbed at the screen in slow-motion over the end credits of Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, that underscores a similar, sad burst of recognition that's perhaps been long coming: For all the uplifting, inclusive good that Glee inspires in its young target demographic, it's a property that's become high on its own self-projected, self-congratulatory fantasy of "fuck the haters" do-goodingness. And there's nothing more that Glee needs or deserves right now than a slushie to the face.
Forget the ugly media storm over who is and is not graduating next year or who found out about it on Twitter or who blamed it all on egos and miscommunication (to the point that a potential spin-off for leads Cory Monteith, Lea Michele, and Chris Colfer was taken off the table seemingly out of spite); Glee as a property has more immediate problems to address in its first big-screen outing, a 3-D spectacle no less touted as a definitive cinematic experience for fans of the show. For starters: Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, filmed in performance during two 2011 East Rutherford, NJ, stops at the tail end of the Glee Live! In Concert! Tour, can't make its mind up about what, exactly, it is.
That identity crisis makes Glee 3D bizarrely uncomfortable to watch. (Say what you will about the show; its teen protagonists at least, for the most part, know who they are.) Glee 3D purports to be a concert documentary, but while director Kevin Tancharoen (of Fame remake fame and the Mortal Kombat Web series) dutifully mixes a ton of performances from the stage tour with backstage moments with the cast and copious footage of excited fans in and around the venue, he only partially conveys the experience of being at a Glee live concert.
Instead, Tancharoen spends a surprising amount of time interviewing a handful of Glee fanatics at home, outcasts or misfits all, who credit the show with inspiring them, saving their lives, etc. There's a bubbly teen girl who loves being a real-life Cheerio despite her dwarfism. The gay kid who credits Colfer's Kurt for emboldening him to come out of the closet. The withdrawn young lady whose obsession with Brittany coaxed her out of her shell (and, were she instead an older man, might be cause for a restraining order or three). It's like an episode of MTV's True Life, which is fine and all, but we're here to see the stars of Glee, not their adorably uncynical fans; Tancharoen spends so much time with these real-life Gleeks instead of advancing character or story from the show through any sort of narrative that it soon becomes clear that this isn't a movie about Glee, exactly -- it's an ode to the cult of Glee.
Setting aside the implications of that glib, self-serving conceit, what makes this worse for fans of the show who were hoping to see some sort of narrative from their beloved motley crew of singing heroes is the fact that the star-driven material is relegated to the performances. No, you're not going to see Rachel and Finn stammer about their feelings or hear Tina rave about Mike Chang's abs. Musical numbers, aped from the show right down to choreography and costuming, clip along with businesslike expedience, so you'll have to bring your own context to the theater or else be lost wondering why Heather Morris is dressed just like Britney Spears singing (or apparently lip-synching, appropriately enough) to "I'm a Slave 4 U," or how the kid in the wheelchair is able to suddenly leap to his feet, magically able-bodied, to gyrate to the tunes of "The Safety Dance." Watchers of the show have seen this all before and understand why these things are happening. Nonfans, good luck following along. It's not all that terribly complicated, anyhow.
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