The closest I’ve ever been to an episode of Glee was a YouTube clip of Gwyneth “I swear I won an Oscar” Paltrow doing an awkward rendition Cee Lo Green song’s “Forget You.” Having seen the Hannah Montana/Jonas Brothers/Justin Bieber triumvirate of three-dimensional, ‘tween-friendly concert films over the past few years, I’m perfectly content to keep Glee: The 3D Concert Movie away with a 10-foot cattle prod.
Those looking for a movie akin to the TV show will, likely also be disappointed. From what I can gather, the TV show is a mix of high school dramedy interspersed with bland covers of pop songs spanning various eras. The versions on display here are pretty uninspired, more like karaoke than actual music, performed by various 20-somethings from the show, all sporting the warbling, cloying, eyebrow-curling, faux-emotive histrionics you’d expect from an actual high school glee club. In other words, this is a film for only the most hardcore of Glee fans.
We get a passable version of “River Deep – Mountain High”—but only because performer Amber Riley has the pipes to handle it. But even then, Riley is no Tina Turner and definitely no Harry Nilsson. The unfortunate thing is, “passable” is the high point. There’s a gussied-up version of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” cheesy enough to make the original Journey version seem palatable. This is nothing compared to Kevin McHale’s nasally, Ira Glass-lookalike-in-a-wheelchair cover of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” And then there’s the rendition of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”—reimagined as butched-up bar rock—sung by a muscle-bound dude with a bad mohawk and no idea how to pretend to play the guitar.
The whole experience became a parade of morbid curiosity for me, as I sat there wondering if it could get worse. Glee doesn’t disappoint in this regard, with its cast of talented enough—but nowhere near impressive—performers, all from the school of over-performance and onstage mugging. When the aforementioned Ms. Paltrow none-too-surprisingly comes out for a “surprise” performance of her character’s “hit” (Cee Lo Green’s hit, that is) the movie reaches its nadir.
That said, I can’t completely dismiss the film. Tied into the entire production is a message of acceptance—from physical looks to sexual orientation—as seen through both its characters and interviews with the show’s fans. Glee has its heart in the right place, and for this it should be commended, even if the rest of it is more than a bit lacking. Rated PG for thematic elements, brief language and some sensuality.