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Movie review: Gleeks rejoice! ‘Glee: The 3D Concert Movie’ delivers the songs

Dennis King Published: August 12, 2011

For so-called Gleeks who can’t get enough of their favorite singing, dancing, emoting high schoolers and starry-eyed Broadway wannabes from the popular TV musical melodrama, now comes the in-your-face “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.”

Glee clubbers on stage
Glee clubbers on stage

As a market saturating offshoot of a ubiquitous pop-culture phenomenon, this documentary look at the show’s cast members on their recent U.S. summer concert tour is definitely preaching – or better yet, singing – to the choir.

Hardcore fans will obviously groove to every familiar tune and every jazz-hands move of McKinley High’s Glee Clubbers (the actors stay in character throughout) on the concert stage. Non-fans might take the more jaded view that this is simply a crass way of extending the show’s commercial brand from the small screen to the big.

While it might seem fashionably cynical to mock “Glee” for its relentless peppiness, its perhaps naïve but hopeful embrace of tolerance and its gosh-darned earnestness, the show has no doubt touched many people’s lives in positive and inspiring ways.
An underlying theme of “Glee” – aptly reflected in its multi-colorful cast – is that it’s OK to be different. Students white, black or yellow; plain, homely or beautiful; skinny, buff or full-figured, populate the cast and are individually given moments to express their doubts, fears and hopes and to shine in the spotlight.

The concert film plays much like a highlight reel for the TV show, with favorite cast members having their moments. There’s Quinn (Dianna Agron) typically playing the diva; Rachel (Lea Michele), doing her Barbra Streisand thing; Blaine (Darren Criss) playing the dark heartthrob; Mercedes (Amber Riley), the big girl with the big voice; Artie (Kevin McHale), tipping his cap to the handicapped, the openly gay Kurt (Chris Colfer), his sweet voice dripping with longing, and so on.

Jane Lynch’s sardonic Sue Sylvester makes a vinegary, token appearance, and lithe Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her TV role as Holly Holliday and performs one sweet-voiced song.

Speaking of songs, Gleeks will be amply rewarded here with some of the show’s favorite tunes – “I’m a Slave 4 U,” “Teenage Dream,” “Lucky,” “Raise Your Glass,” “River Deep, Mountain High” and the rousing anthem “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Director Kevin Tancharoen (appropriately enough maker of 2009’s “Fame” update) moderates the pace by alternating between big, brash on-stage moments and quieter backstage vignettes – featuring talking-head interviews with dedicated “Glee” fans. Three touching tales of the show’s inspirational reach highlight a girl with Asperger’s syndrome, a female dwarf cheerleader and a young gay man.

The film’s 3D effects are unimpressive, consisting mostly of forward-lurching dance moves, shooting streamers and showers of confetti. But the gimmick is really unnecessary since the forceful impact of “Glee,” the show and the 3D concert movie, comes mainly from its heartfelt songs, its earnest encouragement to vulnerable teens that might see themselves as misfits and its message that true talent often comes in the most unlikely of packages. Who can be cynical about that?

- Dennis King

“Glee: The 3D Concert Movie”

PG
1:40
3 stars
Starring: Dianna Agron, Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer
(Thematic elements, brief language and some sensuality)