**/**** Image B+ Sound B Extras B-
directed by Bruce Hendricks
by Bryant Frazer There's nary an unguarded moment on display in Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, a fluffy rock-concert documentary on a lighter-than-air boy band that's packed to the gills with generic rock-star moves and odes to highly appreciative, wholly uncritical fandom. Running under 90 minutes even in the "deluxe extended" version issued on home video, it at least boasts brevity as a virtue. In everything else, it's overstuffed. Documentary footage pads the running time, but the vérité stuff feels stage-managed at best. (The opening scene, in which an actress pretends to be an infatuated room-service girl attending the sleepy brothers at breakfast in their hotel suite, is transparently phoney.) A little later, the film explicitly references Beatlemania, as the boys are seen watching a TV program that draws a line from Lennon/McCartney to the Jonases. In their cutesy, aw-shucks hijinks offstage, these kids may ape The Beatles, who represented the beginning of the modern rock era, but it's quite possible that the Jonas Brothers represent the tail-end of rock culture. Delivered into the homes of America via cable-TV, they are a group of squeaky-clean, enthusiastically unthreatening, market-focused popsters, their surname so synonymous with state-of-the-art fun that the name above the title is Walt Disney's.
It's not that the music is bad. Some of it is bubblegum pop, some of it is power pop, and most of it seems quite earnest. There are tons of hooks and, once or twice, there's a hint of swing. Based solely on the songs and performances collected here, the band has few artistic ambitions beyond co-opting four decades' worth of rock riffs and pop shtick into an aural potion that makes teenaged girls wiggle their butts. That's fine, and they get the job done. But their stage presence is programmatically bland and their show is hilariously puffed up. It opens with a slow dirge by an eight-woman string section, accompanied by electric piano and, eventually, a martial beat on the backing musicians' drums, guitar, and bass as fireballs erupt from multiple positions on stage. Just when you expect Meat Loaf to roar into the arena on a Harley--or maybe hope for a scale model of Stonehenge to descend from the rafters--the three Jonas Brothers suddenly pop up from somewhere beneath centre-stage and are lifted into the air on a platform that arcs high overhead to the accompaniment of a dorky keyboard figure from somewhere below. Moments like that teeter on the edge of parody, and there are enough of them to lend the Brothers a charming veneer of self-awareness. It takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes of this to determine that these seem like nice kids, but Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience just keeps on going, and the secondhand energy of the whole affair becomes a liability. A song is dedicated to "every broken heart...every lost dream...[and] every person who's ever felt alone." Another is sung from a platform that juts out into the audience, with a couple cellists in tow. Back on the main stage, the Brothers prove they know their Townshend moves and their Bono moves, and occasionally lead singer Joe Jonas appears to be trying hard to channel something of Mick Jagger's flirty insouciance, but the group's collective personality is more a contemporary gloss on the Brady Bunch. It's a family affair, mostly wholesome and almost entirely sexless.
That's why one moment in the show really sticks out. Midway though "Still in Love With You," at the movie's 50-minute mark, all three Jonases pull out customized, monogrammed weaponry and fire a spray of white goo into the air so that it glops down onto the heads and bodies of their adoring, squealing, predominantly-female audience like so much, erm, cake frosting. Can the Brothers--those promise-ring-wearing darlings of the Disney Channel--be unaware of the outré sexual implications of this big tease? Well, they certainly get away with it. I guess that's what makes them rock stars.
|Click for hi-res BD captures|
|(in 3D--put on your glasses!)|
THE BLU-RAY DISC
When movie theatres ran this in digital 3D, the result was no doubt a crisp, full-colour HD picture with a near-vertiginous sense of scale. At home, on Blu-ray Disc, the result is decidedly less dazzling. Most colour and nuance in the image vanishes as soon as you put on those terribly outmoded red-and-blue anaglyphic glasses. (The Blu-ray release comes with four pairs in the package.) But it's an interesting trade-off: the boys' round faces look good in close-up, and nothing communicates the scale of a rock-arena performance quite so well as the spaciousness that the 3D system reproduces, even at home. It's seductive, especially when 60,000 hands rise up above the sea of anonymous faces and start clapping simultaneously. The production techniques are generally solid, placing most of the action at the plane of your screen and behind it. Occasionally the filmmakers resort to comin'-at-ya gimmickry, as when the neck of a guitar, a mike, or a flailing Jonas limb is suddenly thrust out into your living room space. And the endeavour turns outright cheesy now and again as items chucked towards the audience become tacky CG cartoons in order to keep their trajectories pointing straight into the camera lens. A few flat (2D-only) concert shots are dropped into the mix (check out the shot over the shoulders of the violin players at 13:24), but they're generally not distracting, and the bulk of the "documentary" footage isn't in 3D, either.
Despite the hype value of 3D, I imagine many home viewers will opt instead for the 2D concert experience, and they shouldn't be disappointed. The opening Jonasmania narrative sequence has almost painfully saturated hues--yellows, especially, pop unnaturally, though magentas and purples also have that electric character. This candy-coloured palette is a little much for me--but then again, I'm 40, and grousing that a Jonas Brothers movie is "too colourful" would just make me feel old. The concert sequences shine significantly brighter--they're richly, appropriately saturated and virtually noise-free. The program has been colour-corrected rock-video style, i.e., with deep crushed blacks and the occasional clipped highlight; it'll pop nicely on LCD and plasma screens. The music mix is a nice, multichannel affair (in 7.1 DTS-HD MA) with some instrumentation in the surrounds in addition to the noisy, omnipresent din of tens of thousands of squealing girls. The vocals, guitars, and drums in the front channels sometimes sounded a wee bit muddy to me, while there's a ton of live reverb (or perhaps "live" reverb) on the vocals that's not totally pleasing. It's a fine- looking and sounding disc, just not exemplary. What's really missing? Well, a pop-up-menu option to switch on the fly between the 3D and 2D versions, instead of having to back all the way out to the main menu, would be nice. For what it's worth, the 3D version takes up 18.74 GB on disc, the 2D version 17.58 GB.
The featurette, an HD affair titled "Up Close and Personal with the Jonas Brothers" (15 mins.), comprises a raft of behind-the-scenes footage with voiceover from the brothers, who are obviously reading from a script. Although this is meant as nondescript fan service, the results are hilariously stilted. (Sample: "I think doing the stunts is my favourite part. Most bands don't do that sort of thing. It's something unique that we do. As the Jonas Brothers. And this time, we really pushed ourselves into doing crazier acrobatics.") Otherwise, it's a decently produced but completely unrevealing short. I only wish it had answered the question of what, exactly, was in those goo guns. The two bonus songs, "Love Bug" (4 mins.) and "Shelf" (4 mins.), are in 2D-only HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 and sound a tad less polished (and are perhaps presented with fewer overdubs) than the rest of the show. Footage of the performance of "Love Bug" is interspersed with a variety of B-roll. The platter is rounded out with HD trailers for G-Force and the upcoming "platinum edition" Blu-ray release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, along with a spot touting the Disney Channel's "Jonas", the generic Disney "On Blu-ray Disc" promo, and a Disney Movie Rewards promo. The most generous extra is a DVD containing the 2D version of the movie, which you can share with your non-Blu-ray-equipped friends. There's even a third DVD containing a "DisneyFile Digital Copy" of the movie that can be unlocked through iTunes or Windows Media Player using an "activation code" printed on the Blu-ray booklet, if that's your cup of tea. Originally published: July 14, 2009.