Glee: The Concert Movie Blu-ray and DVD review: Hits and misses

Yes, Glee: The Concert Movie flopped in theaters — was not boffo at the b.o. during its limited two-week run — but there’s no shame in that. It did gross over $18.6 million in domestic and foreign markets, which was twice its production cost, and it’s sure to get many more viewers now via the new  Blu-ray and DVD release.

Plus, what all the nay-sayers and doom predictors of Glee conveniently overlook when they trample a trifle such as this concert flick is that the show they dismiss is an iTunes powerhouse. When Glee delivers strong contemporary pop instead of stale Broadway standards, it’s boffo, all right — in music sales. And music is what drives this show, sets it apart and makes it so special, whether delivered in episodes on the air, on a sold-out concert tour, in a mismanaged concert movie, on CD or via downloads.

Was Glee’s recent mashup of Adele’s Rumour Has It and Someone Like You a stiff? Does it reflect a slide in Glee’s popularity? Actually, no. It’s part of Glee’s 36 million-plus digital singles sales and was #1 on iTunes. So while TV ratings plateau, here’s a no-brainer alert: Glee’s music still matters. It serves stories as on other TV series. It makes people happy. It’s impactful. It sells. Haters, deal with it.

But I will say the concert movie is an inviting target.  It didn’t fully work. And why is that?

What I see here is a missed opportunity — make that many misses.

First, the Glee cast’s first summer tour in 2010 should have been professionally filmed and released — on home video. If you can issue each season of the show on DVD and Blu-ray, which Fox obviously does, you also can release each tour that way.

Next, the second summer tour, as featured in this film, also should have been strictly a home video release.

Why go for video alone? Because these shows aren’t meant to compete with raunchy comedies and CG action fests in theaters, the wow factor of 3D notwithstanding. (And I can’t say the 3D element impressed me that much while watching Glee: The 3D Concert Movie in a theater last August.) On screen, Glee is a TV product, not a competitor in the theatrical marketplace.

Third, a concert is a concert, and that’s what this alleged Concert Movie should have delivered. Instead, it focused far too much on fans, as if rewarding a miniscule fraction of them with screen time would make us all — well, gleeful. So instead of a true concert with full-length performances of each song from the tour, we get partial versions of some songs, no-shows by others and continual interruptions in the form of good-intentioned yet superfluous looks at various socially-challenged fans finding obsessive rewards in Glee.

That’s nice, but if anything, it stereotypes. Many of us come to Glee from many other directions, and sob stories aren’t needed to dramatize how Glee moves, enlivens and inspires many diverse people. (I’m no kid, but I love it as much as any teen, I promise you.)

Though I watched this material in the theater — I had no choice — I’ve persistently fast-forwarded through it on Blu-ray. I don’t need to see it again. I don’t care. I want to see the concert in an arena, not the fans at home. I want to see Glee — not a few others who also see Glee.

Missing much of the concert while diverted to such fans is what peeved many patrons of the tour when this film hit theaters. Kurt/Chris Colfer’s Single Ladies, for one, is still an absent number, though two songs which were AWOL in theaters are added as extras on video: a stirring big-cast turn for Dog Days Are Over, and a joyous unplugged sing-along spin of Friday by Puck/Mark Salling and several other guys on acoustic guitars and voices.

Two songs also are expanded into full-length for video: the sublime mashup of Happy Days Are Here Again with Get Happy,  featuring Rachel/Lea Michele and Kurt, and the powerhouse Ain’t No Way, belted beautifully by Mercedes/Amber Riley. Happy now runs about 40 seconds longer, and Ain’t No Way about 60 seconds longer, but only as extras.

Other extras are brief looks at the cast backstage and a collection of introductions onstage by Jane Lynch, solo, and by Brittany/Heather Morris and Blaine/Darren Criss.

Fox also is making this title the first “Shazam-enabled” DVD and Blu-Ray, whereby an icon pops up on screen and you can use your smart phone to “tag” it and tap into added content. This includes trivia, photos, lyrics and behind the scenes footage.

But apart from the extras, and aside from the flaws, the bottom line for me is that this is Glee, with the cast staying in character, even backstage, and with far fuller looks at their performances in sharply shot splendor.  Glee’s songs can get squeezed in episodes, too, and they’re rarely staged and showcased as elaborately and vigorously as they are here. So yes, though the movie’s a mixed bag, no, it’s not a failure.

After all, it’s Glee. And loving the show as I do, that’s enough for me.

— Bruce Westbrook


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