Rating: 4 stars out of 5
From a cult television series to iPhone apps, apparel, books, board games and even a reality competition, Glee is undoubtedly a veritable cash cow. Like Justin Bieber’s recent Never Say Never 3D concert movie, the Gleeversion seems like just another blatant attempt to further propagate a franchise. But unlike our floppy-haired teen sensation, creator Ryan Murphy’s hit musical comedy’s translation to the big screen has a surprisingly uplifting message that should resonate especially well with its target audience.
Logically speaking, a concert movie based on a TV series doesn’t make much sense. There’s not much “real” footage of the actors you can show that will be narratively coherent, and making an extended episode simply means commercialization beyond the point of no return. However, Director Kevin Tancharoen, alongside producers Murphy and Dante Di Loreto, have somehow managed to weave some truly touching fan stories about how Glee has changed the lives of a few profiled individuals in a positive way. The cast are also pretty much in character for the entire film, even in supposed “behind-the-scenes” moments. While this might come as a strange format for a concert movie, it makes for an engaging and rather fun “story arc”.
As for the songs, there’s a fairly good mix of good old classics and newer tunes: From “Somebody to Love”, to more current covers of chart toppers like “Born This Way” and “Firework”. Most of our favourites made the list, and while a majority of the renditions benefited from a live setting, certain performances like Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” didn’t seem quite as magical taken out of context. Leading couple Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) both deliver a slew of impressive numbers, the former in particular belts a show-stopping edition of Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade”.
That said, it’s the supporting roles that truly snag the limelight this time: Puck (Mark Salling) unleashes his inner rock-god with Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”, Artie (Kevin McHale) niftily manoeuvres his wheels during a very energetic “Safety Dance”, sexy, ditzy Britney (Heather Morris) gives the real Britney Spears a run for her money in “I’m a Slave For You” and feisty Santana (Naya Rivera) struts some saucy moves. Mercedes (Amber Riley) and Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) continue to bring the house down with their big voices, and even sensitive Sam (Chad Overstreet) gets a chance to shine with his sweet “Lucky” duet with Quinn (Dianna Agron sporting a sassy new haircut).
The snazzy Warblers also make an appearance and with a mini warbler in tow—the utterly adorable 4-year-old Kellen Sarmiento whose sing-and-dance-alongs of “Raise Your Glass” and “Teenage Dream” have become runaway YouTube hits. There’s a surprise celebrity guest as well, though pint sized powerhouse Charice is notably absent, as are Mr Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and the venomous yet well-loved Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).
When all’s sung and done, there’s no denying that Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is nothing more than one huge, cinematic karaoke session designed to please die-hard fans and get them to invest in an already very lucrative franchise. Nonetheless, its earnest themes and laudable attempt at understanding and identifying with the awkwardness of high school swings the film a notch above the other types in the genre. And Gleek or no Gleek, you’ll walk out of the cinema with a big smile on your face.