BY HOWARD COHEN, hcohen@MiamiHerald.com
Think of Glee: The 3D Concert Movie as Stuart Smalley merged with an extended commercial for this fall’s third season of the Fox musical series.
Just don’t think of it as especially entertaining after the initial sugar fizz of the opening Don’t Stop Believin’ wears off — unless you are a card-carrying Gleek and you still dot your i’s with big hearts.
If you have to ask, Who’s Stuart Smalley? you’re probably beyond the demographic for this admittedly good-natured, perky concert movie’s audience. But like that popular 20-year-old Saturday Night Live skit, which featured satirist Al Franken as a relentlessly cheerful, sexually ambiguous self-help therapist, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie goes overboard with its message that, Hey, you’re OK just the way you are!
So, in between live performances from this summer’s Glee arena tour of classic rock oldies and Lady Gaga ( Born This Way, of course, ’cuz, Hey, you’re OK just the way you are!) we meet real teens like Janae Meraz, a 16-year-old Californian born with achondroplasia, a bone disorder that leads to dwarfism, who speaks of triumphing over challenges and how Glee, gosh darn it, is a major part of that. You just know she’s going to win the prom queen tiara because seeing as how they gave it to Kurt on the TV show, it’s clear the unconventional choice always wins out in Gleeville.
Great messages, of course. But Glee: 3D is not good enough, it’s not smart enough, and doggone it, well, you get the gist.
Perhaps Glee: 3D would be easier to take if the spoken interludes didn’t feel so random. Fans speak of how they worship gay character Kurt (Chris Colfer), but instead of leading into Colfer’s moment on stage, it’s Mercedes (Amber Riley) over emoting Ain’t No Way. Colfer has his time, however. The major student characters recreate their TV set pieces. (Aside from Gwyneth Paltrow’s one tune, none of Glee’s adults appear in the film. Forget you, Sue Sylvester.)
Colfer and Lea Michele (Rachel) once again play out the 1963 Judy Garland-Barbra Streisand Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy shtick. Kevin McHale (Artie) has his Safety Dance number and Mark Salling (Puck) ogles the “heap big woman” in Fat Bottomed Girls.
But, stripped of the often brilliant choreography on the TV show that elevates the Kidz Bop arrangements of familiar tunes like Safety Dance, Glee: 3D is inert. The 3D filming puts viewers on stage with the performers, a plus in a concert film, but the quick cuts and camera angles, which are placed mostly at waist level as the stars run around the stage in lieu of creative dancing, lend every performance a flat, same-y Idols Live feel.
Only Lea Michele and Colfer truly have the vocal range to stand out among their cardboard castmates, but even they lack the charisma and stage presence to ensure a post- Glee career. Michele isn’t done any favors by the constant references to super nova talent Barbra Streisand — who, we are told, is in the audience to hear her heir apparent belt one of her signature tunes, Don’t Rain on My Parade.
“I knew she’d come,” a self-conscious Michele gloats, but she’s not convincing — and neither is the movie, because we never catch so much as a glimpse of our favorite Funny Girl slumming at a Glee concert.