Four words: Heather Morris in 3D. OK, three more words: Naya Rivera, too.
While it wouldn’t be overly hyperbolic to call those two elements worth the price of admission alone, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is a warm slushie of love to the senses for true Gleeks. The 83-minute concert film is a mix of footage from this summer’s Glee! Live! In Concert! tour (recorded over two shows in New Jersey), fan vignettes and backstage footage.
Little set-up is needed to understand the concept. It’s everyone’s favorite Glee Club kids singing and dancing and making fans scream – no, really, there’s a lot of screaming. Interspersed heavily throughout are fan testimonials about how much they love the TV show, how it has changed their lives and how it is making the world a better place. If it weren’t for the often riveting performances, the whole thing might play a bit like an extended Fox commercial for the show.
But, oh, those performances. For those who complain about Glee’s often disjointed storylines, the movie delivers on what almost everyone does like about the show – the music.
Never is this more evident than 15 minutes into the film when Morris comes out in her green, flowing Brittany-as-Britney outfit and drops jaws with her rendition of “Slave 4 U.” In that moment I took back everything I’ve ever said about the uselessness of 3D. This is why 3D was invented. As Morris herself admits in a behind-the-scenes snippet, her boobs “look really good” in 3D. Yeah they do. I think I swallowed my tongue.
Still, all Glee Club kids are not created equal in the concert movie. Fans of Dianna Agron will be disappointed to learn that she is prominently featured in only one abridged number (“Lucky,” with now ex-New Direction member Chord Overstreet). For the rest she’s largely seen in the background in ensemble numbers.
But for anyone who has ever wanted the experience of Rachel Berry singing in your lap, this is your Christmas morning. Interestingly, Lea Michelle’s extreme facial gymnastics seem less aggressive in 3D. Instead, her extensive Broadway training shines through. That gal was born to be on a stage and her charisma oozes with every gesture, particularly her gold-star worthy rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
AfterEllen.com Hot 100 reigning No. 1 Rivera reconfirms her crown in two stand-out numbers, “Valerie” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” In the former she flirts with the camera while sporting a precariously low-buttoned pink polo and black mini-poodle skirt. In the latter she mesmerizes in a body-clinging green dress and black knee-highs. While Rivera’s “River Deep, Mountain High” duet partner Amber Riley sings her heart out sensationally during the number, her performance is much more static than her hyper-kinetic cohort who will more than likely make you swallow your tongue, again.
Yet for all its high-energy razzle dazzle, the Glee movie does miss some marks. Other than in a few key numbers (a.ka. anything with Heather or Naya) the 3D is largely unremarkable and oddly flat. Also the filmmaker’s insistence on keeping its stars in character backstage was off-putting. True fans will crave more genuine interaction between the co-stars, both on stage and off. For a cast so personally connected to its fans, it seemed jarring to force them to act like Rachel, Brittany, Kurt and Artie off stage. We all already feel like we know them as Lea, Heather, Chris Colfer and Kevin McHale.
The film also gives abundant screentime to McHale, who gets three featured numbers as Artie, and Darren Criss and The Warblers, who take over for a three-song set. And because she’s not just content with her Oscar and hell-bent on winning that Grammy, Gwyneth Paltrow appears to wail out “Forget You.” That leaves cast members like Agron and Jenna Ushkowitz with little time to shine. But at least there is no Mr. Shue. Thank heavens for small miracles.
The fan vignettes, from crowd segments to stadium interviews to the three fan vignettes that run through the piece, are a little like an Up with Gleeks documentary. But the three featured fans – cheerleader Janae, Brittany fanatic Josey and out teen Trenton – are so sincere it’s hard to begrudge their inclusion. Oh, and that Mini Warbler shows up too, just for good measure, to melt a few ovaries in 3D.
Love or hate Glee, that pop cultural juggernaut of built on personal acceptance and jazz hands, the movie reinforces one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is a group of ridiculously talented, outrageously hard-working young performers who have earned their adoration the old-fashioned way. They sang for their supper. Boy, can they ever sing.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie opens today.