14 May 2009 | Ali_John_Catterall
It hurts less with the glasses off
Hot on the huge red heels of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, another joylessly choreographed gig from Disney's stable of pop stars; so squeaky-clean they probably leave their internal organs soaking in buckets of Persil overnight. Nick, Kevin and Joe are the kind of all-American, all-processed poppets comedian Bill Hicks would have torn into like a school of piranha were he still alive. That job fell to Russell Brand, who mocked their no-sex-before-marriage 'Purity Rings' at 2008's MTV Video Music Awards. Yet instead of being forced to apologise, Brand should have been paid off by Disney for raising the band's profile.
For squillions of kids, however, the Little Christians That Could are already Olympus-sized. This becomes immediately apparent the moment we and our 3D glasses float, as if borne on angels' backs, into New York City's Madison Square Garden arena. Here, 20,000 screaming tweens waggle their glowsticks like unsullied pregnancy testers at the preening boy-men who emerge to bombastic strings and spurting sheets of flame. It's like Triumph Of The Will for under-12s. And everywhere you look, hydraulics. Hydraulic platforms to elevate the Brothers to the vertiginous level of ascetic monks, literally looking down on their fans; hydraulics to pucker their cyborg lips, offering the promise of a chaste, metallic-tasting kiss.
At various junctures, songs occur; as substantial as farts in a wind tunnel. At one point a baby gazelle with perfect hair called Demi nearly blows them off stage with her superior number, before being chased away again. Jonas songs are accompanied by a fey, second-hand gesture from lead vocalist Joe, in which he clenches his thighs together and raises one knee, as if frantic for a pee. Stage-moves as old as pop, courting reactions older than pop, from hormonal girls expertly shaken up like soda bottles, until diverted at the pass to explode their passions into waiting cash registers.
It is breathtaking in its contrivances and blatant in its borrowings. With an opening scene of three young men being chased by a swollen mob of rabid girls to a waiting helicopter, this mindlessly apes the beginning and closing moments of A Hard Day's Night. Director Richard Lester might have cherry picked from the greats - everything from Mack Sennett-style tomfoolery to stylized shots swiped from Fellini - but he did at least end up with something fresh and funny and new. This doesn't possess one-tenth of that film's warmth, naturalism or feral thrill. In his opener, Lester had expertly caught a sense of the Beatles as prisoners of their success; it's clear those girls meant business, that if they were to catch up with the lads they would have literally ripped them apart like latter day Bacchae. This lot look like they'd just text their prey to death.
Where there are stars, there are satellites. Here are three jokers in wigs and waistcoats posing with the multitudes outside the concert hall, engaged in what the Americans call "goofing around." These are the 'imitation' Jonas Brothers, buzzards pecking at the crumbs of celebrity. Robe-stroking lepers. If "the Jonas Brothers are living the dream, we're dreaming the life" they say. Trouble is, they actually appear to have more charisma than the real things who, on this admittedly scant evidence, lack strong, or even vaguely likable personalities of their own.
This personality vacuum is a real problem in a film that purports to depict a day in the life of young pop stars audiences can actually relate to. Straitjacketed into their roles (back-flipping; power-sliding; looking cute), and unable or unwilling to offer any organic or even semi-improvised conversation, the Jonas trio are obliged to traipse through shamelessly staged scenes of purported verite, such as belatedly catching the cameras 'accidentally' filming them taking their tops off backstage. Bad camera! This occasionally backfires, as in an early sequence where the breakfasting Brothers arrogantly shoo away their Trump Hotel waitress, who happens to be hovering in shot, either star-struck or, more likely, patiently waiting for another order. It wrong-foots, as do the 3D effects, which mainly consist of Joe hurling guitar picks or his sunglasses straight at us. How would you like to have a pair of sunglasses flung in your face? Watching this feels like working for Naomi Campbell.
At time of writing, this has achieved 1.3 out of 10 on the IMDb, the site's lowest ever score - for a documentary at least (it doesn't count this as a feature film). Yet this intensely polarizing movie has clearly been subject to some tactical voting, given the overwhelming majority of glowing, hysterical reviews. Meanwhile, the site suggests that "If you enjoyed this title, our database also recommends Gimme Shelter". A slightly reckless juxtaposition, given that the film, which documents the Rolling Stones' tragic 1969 Altamont Free Concert, culminates in the on-screen murder of an audience member by the Hells Angels. The only thing being murdered in Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience is music.
Well, alright. It's fairly safe to assume this reviewer is not the intended demographic for this movie. And couldn't be any less suited were they also blind in one eye, and thus unable to get anything out of the 3D experience. Not to belabor the point, but in the Jonas Brothers management boardroom there's a flip chart sporting this reviewer's photo and the word 'No' underlined three times in thick black marker pen. This will probably more than satisfy the audience it's aimed at. But for the rest of us, a tour called 'Burning Up' suggests only one thing. We are in Hell.