What Hath “Glee” Wrought: 6/15/2012
Is this really what people think a musical is? How have we come from films like “An American In Paris”, “Wizard of Oz” and “Cabaret” to this? Ever since “Chicago”, people seem to have gotten a little bit mixed up on just what a musical is. I don’t mean to give a definitive definition as I am not in any way qualified to do so and because the musical genre as it exists has many facets and interpretations. I can at the very least tell you what I’m sure a musical are not (well a good musical anyway). It isn’t a bunch of star of the moment actors with no musical training or skill, rehashing and mashing up songs (that were better as their own entity), and performing them in flashy, substance lacking, narrative neglecting, show pieces to excite the easily excitable tween audience (see “Glee”, “Rock of Ages”, “Mamma Mia”, “Moulin Rouge”). Musicals at their best were expressions of pure emotion, true and heartfelt, given life through complex evocative choreography, and brilliantly written songs by the likes of Comden and Green, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. People may say that musicals never had strong narratives, but I think they are too quick to label a simple narrative as unworthy in favor of a more overly complex one. For instance the love between a man in a woman (which is the basis or aspect of many musicals) is brimming with opportunities for the emotional expressiveness that only song and movement can bring. Even still, the great musicals, even when lacking in narrative, found their worth in their ebullient (and sometimes sad) emotional displays of life, love, struggle and passion. This however, is a far cry from what people consider to be musicals today, wherein musicals only seem to exist only as long itunes download commercials with a “plot” thrown in for good measure. Trust me when I say that there is nothing emotionally expressive about Gwyneth Paltrow singing Forget You off key on Glee. Thats just a Saturday Night Live Skit and a bad one at that. Yet most of the film blog-o-sphere seems on board for this new brand of musical entertainment, which is shown by their anticipation of the new musical comedy “Pitch Perfect”.
Most are resigning this film to be nothing but stupid fun all wrapped up in a blanket of guilty pleasure. Something akin to “Bring it On”. This however, is a unworthy assessment of a landmark film. Peyton Reed’s “Bring it On was an imaginatively directed, pastiche of Busby Berkeley flavored social consciousness (even at a superficial level) made not in a parodying or tongue in cheek style , but as a filmic extension of accepted popular cheer-leading myth, reveling in both the silliness and seriousness of the world that cheerleaders inhabit. “Pitch Perfect” however looks to be a demonic hybrid of the overrated “Bridesmaids” and the overvalued “Glee”. An unfortunate crossroads where over-long, undisciplined, and self-infatuated comedy of Judd Apatow meets head on with tonal vacillations, wanton disregard for character or narrative arcs, haphazard interjection of sentimentality, cynical pandering to the god of iTunes Downloads, and the leaden commitment to clichéd, “feel good” plot point of Ryan Murphy. I can’t wait.