The focus is on the fans in Disney’s “Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience,” a gimmick-driven rock doc that alternates between high-energy stereoscopic footage of the group’s Anaheim, Calif., arena show and strategic 2-D bits designed to encourage all those giddy teenage girls that if they only scream loud enough, the Jonas Brothers might materialize in person (to the extent that the siblings plan to greet fans at screenings of their film nationwide). While the recession forces American parents to save, their daughters will be breaking open their piggy banks to buy premium-price tickets to this limited-time spectacle.
To fuel the excitement, director Bruce Hendricks cooks up a “Hard Day’s Night” homage in which fans mob the band’s limo, forcing the guys to climb out the sunroof, make a mad dash through New York traffic and escape by helicopter. The sketch leads directly into three songs from their show, during which the dynamic cameras switch between intimate onstage views and dramatic wide shots taken above the sea of waving glowsticks and outstretched arms.
Though the concert footage takes full advantage of the third dimension (even using visual effects to extend certain Z-axis gags, as when a drumstick, guitar pick or exploding firework is digitally spun off screen), the connecting scenes don’t delve especially deeply into the Jonas Brothers’ offstage life. Unlike Hendricks’ earlier Hannah Montana 3-D concert doc, which served as a virtual all-access pass to Miley Cyrus as she prepped for the show, the Jonas Brothers “experience” assumes a passing familiarity with the band going in.
Those who don’t already know the three sibs by name aren’t likely to emerge with a much better sense of their distinct personalities. Oldest brother Kevin (the one with the sideburns) possesses certain Elvis-like qualities, but seems to attract the least applause. Multi-talent Nick plays guitar, keyboard and drums (the band also employs pros on each instrument, as well as an entire string section). And middle kid Joe is clearly the clown of the group, frequently playing to the camera, as in a brief backstage clip when he starts to strip and only then pretends to notice the cameras rolling — not that parents need worry. Never have three Y chromosomes amid a sea of swooning girls seemed less sexually threatening.
At 76 minutes, the film is nearly twice as long as even the band’s most dedicated admirers might need, with weariness setting in around the 40-minute mark during a song in which the brothers tower above the crowd on big hydraulic pedestals. Their show is full of such stunts — moving platforms, flaming pyrotechnics, even fire hoses to douse the crowd — which certainly keep things visually interesting, even as the songs seem to run together. They save their most familiar hits (“S.O.S” and “Burnin’ Up”) for late in the show and leave out career-making cover song “Year 3000” altogether.
Instead of practicing choreographed dance routines, the brothers use the stage’s ramps and runways for elaborate gymnastic flips and tricks, making for a highly athletic show. Their natural energy takes the burden off editor Michael Tronick, who had to work harder with solo performer Cyrus. But the technique builds on that earlier feature, keeping the viewing experience smooth without adopting any of the more innovative techniques used by last year’s “U2 3D,” such as overlapping shots and gradual dissolves. Tronick’s editing actually calms down when guest stars Demi Lovato (singing her “Camp Rock” duet) and Taylor Swift drop by, whereas the most hyper cutting occurs when “Big Rob” Feggans emerges to rap alongside the boys.
Big Rob plays a prominent offstage role, doubling as bodyguard and friend to the band. Other between-song segments feature interviews with some of their biggest fans and a visit to Times Square, packed with New Year’s Eve-size crowds, the night of their album debut.
But the centerpiece is new song “Love Is on Its Way,” which the brothers unveil in a 3-D musicvideo shot in Central Park, complete with Village People-worthy costume changes. The final shot of the sequence reveals an enormous crowd gathered to watch the performance — yet another reminder that the band never forgets its fans.