The television hit Glee will inevitably jump the shark — or dance over it — as pop culture phenomena do. A decade from now, people may wonder what all the fuss was about. More folks than Gleeks choose to believe exist are wondering that now.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie will always be there, somewhere, to remind fans when 20-somethings playing teenagers, singing top-40 songs of young lust and precocious empowerment were cool. There is nothing to be done for the human Slushees of the world who only see elaborate karaoke and nerds. They never started believin'.
Kevin Tancharoen's rudimentary concert movie won't change minds either way. It's a jukebox movie with performances of two dozen songs already heard on television or downloaded on iTunes. Most of the singing is impressive, and the playlist is varied for the widest demographic appeal. Barbra Streisand and Amy Winehouse go hand in hand, each arranged and performed with Broadway bravado.
Yet this movie goes beyond fan appreciation, to the heart of Glee's success. It has never been solely singers and songs attracting viewers. Glee is about inclusion among outcasts, forming a not-so-secret society against powers that shouldn't be. Gay, straight, overweight or underhanded, anyone who ever felt left out is welcome. Tancharoen makes the TV fiction real, regularly cutting from the stage to profile lives mirroring the show's message.
There's Janae, whose dwarfism hasn't stopped her from becoming a popular high school cheerleader and homecoming princess candidate. Trenton was outed as a homosexual after his personal journal expressing affection for a classmate was stolen and passed around. Josie was diagnosed with Asperger's, living as a recluse until Glee gave her something in common with others, including a girlfriend. These segments make the concert scenes seem more like a revival of spirit with a backbeat.
The empowering feel is probably why Jane Lynch's bullying Sue Sylvester was dropped from the final cut, a funny character that nonetheless contrasts the message (and resembles Janae's cheerleading coach). Mr. Schu never shows up, and the only "adult" on stage is Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her wacky substitute teacher to sing Cee-Lo's Forget You.
Tancharoen serves a Glee greatest hits collection, starting with Journey's Don't Stop Believin' from the pilot, to an encore of Queen's Somebody to Love after the Slushee-soaked end credits. Only Cory Monteith's version of Jessie's Girl skirts the karaoke line, but he admits he isn't a singer. Heather Morris' tribute to Britney Spears (Slave) appears lip-synched, but her dance moves are sultry enough to not notice.
For the most part, the performances can raise goose bumps, especially whenever Lea Michele, Amber Riley and Naya Rivera open their mouths. Darren Criss' overnight popularity as a member of the rival glee club the Warblers invites a three-song interlude that's two songs too long. As on TV, everything turns out well with Lady Gaga's Born This Way providing a climactic group hug of support. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is a bouncy, occasionally bumpy ride that might even get Sue Sylvester tapping her toes.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.