To fully savor Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, it’s best to watch with an audience overwhelmingly populated by girls and young women, all of them on their feet singing lyrics like ”Oooh, this is an S.O.S.,” and squealing every time one of the wildly popular teen-bait hotties mugs for the restless camera. And you’re in luck: Squeal-o-vision is pretty much guaranteed at any multiplex screening of Disney’s newest puppy-pop ?concert film. Fans who know all the words to ”BB Good” and ”Burnin’ Up” are the target ticket buyers for this chipper, careful brand extension of the sani-packaged boy band composed of 21-year-old Kevin (the fun one), ?19-year-old Joe (the cute one), and 16-year-old Nick Jonas (the eerily self-possessed too-young-to-vote one, who ? has been singing for a living since he was a ?6-year-old New Jersey squirt).
It’s fair to ask, under the circumstances, what an oldie like me (now that science has made it possible for women to live past the age of 30!) is doing assessing a movie so clearly made for residents of the state of Hannah Montana, starring lambkins birthed in the breeding pens of the Disney Channel. I’m glad to answer. I may not know much about what ?it feels like to be a tween today, trembling with chaste and wholesomely horny longing for three pale young men who strike sexy rocker poses while wearing rings symbolizing their commitment ? to premarital virginity. But exactly because I am not a young aficionada, dressed in a hoodie on which I have inked ”Mrs. Jonas” in large, hopeful letters, I’m in a good position to ? report on what’s actually going on up there on the screen while the siblings are working the room. And what’s ? going on is not necessarily what you see through plastic 3-D glasses.
For one thing, the boys crib openly from the personas that the Beatles so famously established in A Hard Day’s Night 45 years ago. In the ? Jonases’ backstage footage, the brothers assume the roles of playful yet disciplined imps amazed by their own celebrity (and ostentatiously mothered on the road by their ? hulking personal bodyguard/nanny, ”Big Rob” Feggans). For those of us dwelling outside the Jonas demo, the small charms in the ”candid” moments have little to do with the boys’ talents as actors — their ?dramatic challenge is to play themselves, supposedly sleeping or eating breakfast — and a lot to do with the revered icons whose cheeky behavior they’re imitating. I don’t think it’s an accident that at one point director Bruce Hendricks (who made last year’s Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert) cuts to a shot of the Jonases watching a TV clip of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 — and not just because girls back then squealed for the Fab Four just as they do now for the Theme Park Three. The newbies owe much of their innocents-on-the-run shtick to the Beatles’ truly ?original charms, and the larky visual style filmmaker Richard Lester devised for the lads from Liverpool.
Then there are the concert segments, shot during the Jonases’ Burning Up tour stops ? in Anaheim, Calif., and at New York City’s ? Madison Square Garden. They may scamper and strut but the act is, at heart, as reassuringly square as a church service, with Kevin, Joe, and Nick as altar boyz. Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato also stop by, warbling anthems to female self-worth and moral fortitude. Swift sings, ”You should’ve said no, you should’ve gone home/You should’ve thought twice ‘fore you let it all go,” to a straying beau. Amen, sister.
As for the extra-cool format the movie is shot in, not much happens in Disney Digital 3-D that couldn’t have happened in Disney Five Minutes Ago 2-D — except for one ?unintentionally, hilariously, subliminally dirty bit that will be lost (I hope) on the fervent crowd. I refer to the moment where the ?boys grab big fire hoses, hold them like…fire hoses…and spray the heads of their moaning girl fans with thick geysers of, um, foam. The girls respond by holding up their lighted little wands. The whole sequence becomes so phallic that the movie seems to be breaking loose toward Spinal Tap territory. Then it ? returns safely to Disney earth with the ? heavenly message encoded in the boys’ finger jewelry: Abstinence only, kids! B-