Following hot on the heels of TV shows-turned-movies like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, the international phenomenon that is Glee makes its way to the big screen in no less a dimension than 3D. Like High School Musical before it, Glee has capitalised on the outcasts and geeks in the school systems of the world to become not only one of the most viewed series everywhere, but spawn a whole sub-culture of fans who call themselves “Gleeks”. Infused with a series of popular songs ripped straight from the charts of the last few decades, the show has taken on a meteoric rise of its own to become just as much a part of the same popular culture that it apes. Meta.
Rather than being a feature version of the show, Glee – The 3D Concert Movie takes the song and dance numbers and quite literally puts them on centre stage. Peppering the concert footage are interviews with the cast, who remain largely in character for these “behind the scenes” sequences, and an eclectic collection of self-proclaimed freaks and geeks who have all found a higher calling and common purpose through their love of Glee.
The prospect of a 3D concert film featuring the Glee cast is enough to make the sturdiest of filmgoers quake in their boots, but the cross-generational appeal of the show – coupled with the hectic demands of filming a network TV series – means that a concert film is still the best way to tour the globe. If this had just been a straight set of songs performed to camera, it would have been lazy filmmaking indeed. While there is still a certain sense of cheque-cashing going on in this release, and the limited cinema window sends up warning flags that this will be making a rapid debut on DVD and Blu-ray, the interviews with the incredibly enthusiastic fans of the show make this an examination (albeit a superficial one) of the cultural phenomenon around the show, from a little person going to her first prom to the kid that found the courage to “come out” as gay in the eighth grade. While it will undoubtedly run its natural course in time, like High School Musical and Camp Rock have already done in the last five years, Glee – The 3D Concert Movie attempts to capture lightning in a bottle. It is a little time-capsule of zeitgeist that completely reflects the times. Not bad for a setlist that features covers of songs originally released several decades before the majority of the core audience was born.
The concert film is at its strongest, however, when it showcases the talents of the core cast. The obligatory opening number of “Don’t Stop Believin'”, the show’s theme tune and a cover of the song from prog-rock band Journey, sets the mood quickly. The setlist rips along at a pace with familiar tunes such as The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” and even the Men Without Hats track “Safety Dance”, but there are a handful of show-stoppers that actually elevate this from cover-band night at the stadium to Vegas chorus line. Heather Morris (in character as Brittany Pierce) steams up 3D glasses with a cover of Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U” with an accompanying dance number that is not only well choreographed, but frankly hot. The adjacent “Fat Bottomed Girls” is a fun and breezy Queen cover that seems appropriate given the demographic of the show. The trio of songs that the Dalton Academy Warblers are given is perhaps indicative of their success in the fan base as well.
Where Glee – The 3D Concert Movie falters is in its attempts to give everybody their stage dues. Where the television show affords the ensemble cast ample opportunities for their moment in the spotlight, pedestrian covers of “River Deep, Mountain High”, “Silly Love Songs” and obligatory chart favourites from Lady Gaga (“Born This Way”) and Katy Perry (and the ubiquitous “Firework”) only serve to give everybody a turn at the mic, and dip the enthusiasm levels down by 20% or so. Recognising this, a “surprise” appearance of Gwyneth Paltrow covering Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You” (a sanitised version of “Fuck You”) gets some nice late-set cheers. Yet by the same token, the perpetual wave of hits slam their way through the brief running time of just over an hour, and the 3D camera work is immersive without ever being overt. Get your Gleek on, and if you already have, then this one is going to be an easy sell for you.
Glee – The 3D Concert Movie is released in Australia on 11 August 2011 from Fox.