I’m no “gleek,” but I’ve generally appreciated Glee the TV show for what it is. I think the openly satirical Season 1 was far stronger than the post-phenomenon, iTunes-driven Season 2. But show-runner Ryan Murphy decided to focus on stunt casting, a swelling stock of B-list teen talent, and the skeevy Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) over more bedrock values, like vocal and acting talent. Although many aspects of the Kurt storylines have been genuinely moving — thank the phenomenal Chris Colfer — they’ve also demonstrated a lurking self-importance within the show, as though Glee and Murphy see themselves on the barricades of the culture wars, rather than snug within the warm corporate embrace of Fox.
But the Glee concert movie is something else entirely. If there have been rumbles of a backlash before, this is the misstep that will most likely turn the tide among all but the most blindly devoted fans. Glee 3D is a two-week limited roadshow with special ticket prices, and to borrow a phrase from South Park’s Kyle, I declare shenanigans.
As a concert film, G3D is incompetent on every level, combining shoebox-diorama “3D” with Picassoid, nonsensical editing. The film was clearly not conceived in 3D — read: slapdash, cynical cash-grab — so Heather Morris or Harry Shum, Jr. swings into your field of vision for a moment, then vanishes, replaced by some other random, jarring thing. Also, audience members block the stage ... in 3D! So you experience the sensation of having jerkwads in the 10th row of your own theater waving their arms or getting up to pee. It's essentially Down In Front: The Movie.
Worse than this, every song is condensed, just like in the TV show. Yes, you’re paying top-dollar ticket prices to hear half of a great number like Amber Riley and Naya Rivera’s killer duet of “River Deep, Mountain High,” or Colfer’s aching version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” In the show, this is defensible, because the producers need to make room for plotlines.
But why in a concert film? So we can have more phony backstage patter between the performers (who, like Disneyland costumed “cast members,” never break character)? A “surprise” appearance by Gwyneth — er, excuse me, “Holly Holliday,” singing Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You”? An excruciating solo by Cory Monteith?
No. At least a quarter of G3D’s interminable 90 minute running time is devoted to extended interview segments with three Glee fans who prattle on about how the show taught them valuable lessons, helped them accept themselves, saved their lives, gave them a reason to get through the day. I’m not kidding. A young gay man, a perky “little person” cheerleader, and probably the most outwardly non-autistic Asperger’s individual Murphy could find are all interstitially present, to make the case for Glee as a necessary triumph in the battle for outcasts’ self-acceptance. Not content to swindle his audience, Murphy needs to “educate” us too, with his unique brand of upper-class, consumerist identity politics. It’s a tepid slushy to the face — one he might just as well have spared us.