Film review: Glee 3D: The Concert Movie

WHAT I’ve seen of Glee on TV looks like fun; a show dressed like High School Musical but with the sarcastic heart of a recently divorced 45-year-old, and with a heartfelt message that no matter how weird you might seem to the rest of the school, you deserve to sing brass-lunged versions of Amy Winehouse anthems.

For Glee 3D: The Concert Movie the drama club pupils have transferred from the classroom to a New Jersey stadium, where they get their storylines stripped out and the songs turned up to 11. Still they remain in characters as a variety pack of outsiders including ambitious diva (Lea Michele, right), plus-sized girl (Amber Riley), swishy gay boy (Chris Colfer), boy in wheelchair (Kevin McHale), Jewish girl (Jenna Ushkowitz), and sports star (Cory Monteith, who is cute but at 29, too old for any school).

What’s odd is not who is in this live show, but who is absent. In particular, there’s the omission of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), the villainous tracksuited cheerleading teacher inspired by Col Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. “You should do with your depressing little group of kids what I did with my wealthy, elderly mother,” she once urged the drama teacher. “Euthanise it.” On the other hand, Gwyneth Paltrow’s giddy supply teacher featured in less than a handful of episodes, yet here she is in concert, now less kooky, and rather more condescending and reedy-voiced.

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If there was any shyness about bigging up the Glee effect, this film gets past it, fast. In three vignettes, fans testify to the show’s life-changing gifts; a gay 14-year-old used it to get over the humiliation of being outed, a girl with dwarfism found the confidence to become a cheerleader and prom queen, while a girl with Asperger’s was able to access a social life for the first time, by talking about the show. Uplifting as these segments are, you can’t help thinking that as well as empowering teens, Glee has also sold them a shedload of music downloads, lunchboxes and tickets to 3D premium-priced movies

The performances are clearly aimed at the core fanbase, and they are ... fine. It’s very easy to mock Glee’s blitzkrieg cheerfulness and rudimentary “everybody rush around the stage” choreography, but it’s not as if the kids are massacring sacred material: much of their repertoire is Bernstein, Sondheim, Holland-Dozier-Holland and whoever thumps out tunes for Journey, making this less painful than a Jonas, Miley or Bieber gig. Besides, at least two of the cast have knockout voices so when Michele performs a pipe-cleaning version of Rain On My Parade, she preserves Streisand’s phrasing and sonic swoops, but has the pyrotechnics that make the song feel remarkably fresh.

Still, I know what at least one adult would call it; “The most offensive thing I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching – and that includes an elementary school production of Hair.” And since this show is all about social inclusiveness, let’s hope the next gig includes you, Sue.

On general release


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