Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Like it or loathe it, there's no denying that Glee is a success. The ultimate in boy/girl band pop packaging, it has taken The Kids From Fame one step further and succeeded in remarketing classic songs to a new generation of eager fans. Never mind that the cast don't play instruments (beyond a bit of mimed guitar strumming) and are only averagely talented singers - what counts is the show, the (often quite impressive) dance routines and a heavy helping of glamour and glitz.

For young fans with no interest in looking beyond this, the new Glee film is full of thrills. Sure, the 3D is patchy in places, but for the most part it works and provides a dramatic concert experience - like being there, but with a better view and without the smell or the sharp elbows. In between songs we get little vignettes in which fans talk about the ways the show has changed their lives. It's so vigorously uplifting it must have hoped to raise the roof.

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Instead, it has flopped in America, and when one looks a little closer it's easy to see why. The Glee spell is starting to break and when a thing like this turns sour, it's very sour indeed. The height of its misjudgement comes when disabled character Artie (Kevin McHale) suddenly leaps out of his wheelchair and breaks into a dance routine. Okay, so the actor's not disabled, but Glee rides on its characters' apparent disadvantages and this sudden breaking of the fourth wall sits ill with that. It's a stark reminder that this is really about massively privileged people raking in money by pretending to embody things they can't even fully comprehend. It's a moment reminiscent of The Black And White Minstrel Show, and it's all the more uncomfortable because it sits alongside the real life stories of two fans with disabilities that they can't simply shake off by believing in themselves harder. One of these young women loves cheerleading and dreams of being a prom princess, social acceptance the apex of her ambition. The other talks poignantly of how she is determined to be a positive person because when she held hands with her favourite Glee character she felt more loved than she ever had before. That said character isn't even a real person only makes it more tragic.

The real life stories here are far stronger and more compelling, though only one of them - that of a young gay man and his difficult coming-out experience - is truly positive. Watching him give the credit to the character of Kurt (is he really gay? Is he a real leprechaun, or are those just prosthetics?) only highlights how few real role models there are for people in his position, and one wishes the film would give these documentary sections more credit in order that people like him might become them. Instead we spend most of our time watching the stage show, which veers between playful pop and the downright creepy (why did anybody think it was a good idea to cover Michael Jackson's Pretty Young Thing?). Glee is pitched as a family friendly programme but some numbers, especially an early one by Brittany (Heather Morris), are fiercely sexual and may make some parents uncomfortable. Songs performed in school uniforms seem to be aiming for some kind of bad boy AC/DC thing but the age of the participants and the rigid choreography makes it look more like some kind of Hitler Youth disco. Of course, most kids will be completely fine with all this, but it's the film's subtler messages that are more disturbing. Worship this, buy this, and you too can be socially accepted.

By the looks of this, Glee doesn't have long to last, so fans might as well enjoy it whilst they can. These are strange days, a generation of lonely gay men who idolised Barbara Streisand having been succeeded by a generation of lonely gay men who idolise a pretend teenager who idolises Barbara Streisand. All the glitter and glitz adorning these vibrant young bodies can't altogether distract the eye from the hundred foot booms swinging across them through the darkness above. The lights blaze out from the stage as cameras glide by stealthily overhead. It's a massively industrialised process. The most telling moment in the film is one young man's impression of a robot. It's the only scene that really convinces. How could they not know?

Reviewed on: 17 Aug 2011
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Glee: The 3D Concert Movie packshot
A live concert movie from the 2011 Glee tour, intercut with stories from fans about how the show has changed their lives.
Amazon link

Director: Kevin Tancharoen

Starring: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Heather Morris, Kevin McHale, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Salling

Year: 2011

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

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