Even Gleeks who love to watch seasoned showbiz belters pretend to be high school kids on the hit TV series Glee may wince at the cheesy marketing angle of Glee the 3D Concert Movie. And I report this as a former geeky high school alto who is, if not a Gleek, at least Glee friendly. To fluff up what is essentially a raggedy recording of the recently concluded, brand-extending North American tour known as Glee Live! In Concert!, the movie intersperses musical numbers with selected inspirational stories about fans whose lives have improved because of their devotion to the show. These happy, excited aficionados see the world differently now! They realize that there are no Losers, just all kinds of different people! And that’s cool: A peppy dwarf cheerleader identifies with the Cheerios of fictional William McKinley High School; a gay young man finds inspiration in the courage of fictional Kurt (Chris Colfer) to be himself; an outsider with Asperger’s syndrome thinks of fictional Brittany (Heather Morris) as her best friend, and in turn finds real friendship in the fellowship of other Gleeks.
The positive power of a TV show to encourage tolerance and compassion among its viewers is a wonderful thing. But these ”success stories” tilt uncomfortably toward self-congratulation on the part of the producers; certainly they register as overkill for the intended audience, who presumably already know how awesome it is that there’s a place in the high school universe where students as different as Artie (Kevin McHale) in his wheelchair, Mercedes (Amber Riley) the plus-sized diva, and Puck (Mark Salling) the bullying football player, can all find joy singing covers of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé hits.
As for the concert itself, it’s a generically big, loud, overchoreographed, over-mic’ed, post-Madonna production, programmed with songs to get the whole audience singing, screaming, and waving oversized red foam-rubber Glee hands that form the show’s trademark letter L. Directed by Kevin Tancharoen (Fame), the movie’s 3D-ness adds nothing except the strange sense that the cast is performing in front of a painted backdrop rather than in front of actual deliriously happy Gleeks. You know who you are. C