*Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (PG)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
It's a depressing time to have Hollywood dreams. As if the odds aren't tough enough, it seems the business increasingly favors triple threats: those who can sing, act and dance.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, then, is like a hide-the-knives moment for the not-so-young and audition-weary, a bravura performance by a group of TV actors in front of arenas filled with screaming fans of all ages. If that's the new criteria, then it's time to discard the casting notices and start packing.
Shot by Kevin Tancharoen, director of the recent Fame remake, this extravagant victory lap comes at an awkward time. Glee — a FOX high school musical dramedy that began as an uplifting underdog with an off-kilter sense of humor and morphed into a multi-platform pop-culture juggernaut boasting video games, post-Super Bowl specials and every other kind of merchandising tie-in — has suffered some blows during its recent off-season. Fans and critics have grown weary of the show's public sausage-making, from creator Ryan Murphy's declarations and subsequent retractions regarding the future of Glee's biggest stars to the (admittedly fun) train wreck of Oxygen's reality show/casting call, The Glee Project.
Though the timing of this superstravaganza is unabashedly calculated, with Season 3 starting next month, its function as a reminder of why millions of Gleeks fell in love with it in the first place is undeniably successful. Everyone takes for granted that its mission is one of joy, the kind only found in a shared passion for music, which, coincidentally enough, its stars are capable of performing on a remarkable level.
From the opening number, "Don't Stop Believin'," to the closer, "Somebody to Love," Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera and the dozen or so other unlikely household names entertain throngs of devotees with genuinely live singing and intense choreographed dancing. It's infectious and dazzling.
Heather Morris (Brittany Pierce, on Glee), in particular, stands out as a young talent seemingly born to play arenas. She delivers a jaw-dropping rendition of the other famous Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U," out-singing the pop princess.
Michele likewise mounts a fine defense for her sudden omnipresence while Rivera, Darren Criss and Mark Salling seem ready for their solos. Breakout star Chris Colfer, one of Time magazine's most influential people, is hobbled by his countertenor vocals, which don't translate well in an arena.
Although the concert footage is ceaselessly entertaining, the film's in-between segments feel unnecessary and downright bizarre. Tancharoen occasionally cuts to the cast prepping backstage, answering questions and riffing in character, as if they're guests on Inside the Actors Studio. Naturally, it leads to momentum-killing dead ends that reveal nothing about the show, the tour or the players.
Even more peculiar are sections that follow the storylines of three fans: a midget cheerleader attending prom, a gay high school student forced out of the closet, and a girl with Asperger syndrome whose only happiness comes from watching Morris. Their stories are touching enough in a cable-reality sort of way, but compared to the production values of the concert footage, these sections look amateurishly manipulative.
Still, it's a small price to pay for a bliss injection. And anyone who's shelled out $10 for a Glee album or more for a licensed pajama set will be more than happy to open their wallets during this two-week engagement.