Open door. See throngs of girls screaming with the volume and urgency of air raid sirens.
Get in waiting car. Drive a few blocks. Wave occasionally to girls. There’s more of them. And they’re all shrieking.
Get out of car. Push way past (wailing) girls to enter building.
This sums up what it’s like for insanely popular movie reviewers (like me) when we attend screenings.
No, no, scratch that. I was getting mixed up. On further reflection, this is not at all what it’s like to be a movie reviewer. No, this is what life is like for the Jonas Brothers—at least I’m pretty sure it is after experiencing their 3-D concert movie, which is aptly titled Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.
Last year, the Jonas Brothers (Kevin is now 21, Joe is 19 and Nick, 16) showed up for a song or two in Miley Cyrus’ Best of Both Worlds Concert. But that wasn’t enough time for diehard Jonasites. So Disney decided to give the boys their own go at it. The resulting hour-and-a-quarter show still won’t be enough time, especially considering the fact that most theaters are charging a premium for the whole 3-D thing.
About 16 quintillion teen and tween girls will still pony up the payment, though, and do so gladly since the Fab Three rifle through more than a dozen songs, rock out with guest stars Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato, throw guitar picks (duck!) into the lens of the 3-D camera and even (gasp!) strip off their shirts.
Well, two of them do, anyway. Joe pulls his belt off during a costume change, too, before clothing gets thrown on the camera. (Parents take note.)
Yes, this 3-D concert experience is filled, from beginning to end, with all things Jonas. Which left me—a non-teen, non-girl type of person—saying one thing as I headed for the exit:
No, I jest. Mostly. In truth, it’s practically impossible to dislike the Jonas Brothers.
A Wholesome Brotherhood
Elements of their story are pretty familiar now: Raised in a Christian home by their father (a former Assemblies of God pastor) and mother (who homeschooled them all), the Jonases showed musical ability from an early age. Nick, the youngest, was the first to get noticed. He started appearing on Broadway, and a little Christmas ditty he co-wrote with his father earned him—and his two older brothers—a tryout with Columbia Records.
Columbia signed them to a contract, but after a so-so debut album the company cut them loose in 2007. Then the trio caught Disney’s ever-sharp eye. Just over a year later, the brothers are a full-blown phenomenon.
And all the while, the Jonases have—at least as far as the public’s concerned—remained charmingly aw-shucks about all the adulation. They’re cordial and friendly with fans, clean-cut in interviews. They talk, at times, about their faith. They wear promise rings.
This film does little to smudge the Jonas Brothers’ squeaky-cleanliness. While “oh my god!” can be heard on fans’ lips when the Jonases come within a time zone or two, the brothers themselves are more restrained. When they look out their SUV windows at a mass of females who’ve come, in essence, to witness them exiting a car and entering a building, they’re floored. “Oh my gosh!” they say. “Oh my goodness!”
Their lyrics are also—while usually inane—for the most part inoffensive. Joe does say something “sucks” while singing “Video Girl,” but most of the Jonas Brothers’ works are simple love ditties: These boys don’t sing about liquor-soaked excursions or one-night stands. They sing about gushy, lovey-dovey feelings (“When You Look Me in the Eyes”), wanting to kiss a girl (“BB Good”) and breaking up by text message (“S.O.S.”). Even “Video Girl” is, in essence, a song warning the brothers themselves not to be lured into relationships where the girls are just interested in the Jonas’ celebrity.
Arguably, the film’s most risqué song belongs to Taylor Swift, who appears onstage wearing a short, slip of a dress. She rightly lambastes a boyfriend for cheating on her, and she avoids dishing the details. But the sexual subject still lingers.
The Jonas Brothers’ whole shtick is a throwback to more innocent days. They offer clear homage to The Beatles’ classic film A Hard Day’s Night when they flee from legions of screaming girls through various clever, Scooby-Doo-style subterfuges. Onstage, Nick wears a coat and tie, strumming his guitar while rooted in place, as if he were performing four decades ago on The Ed Sullivan Show. Kevin gallops around the stage like a rascally Monkee, hamming it up for the cameras and audience alike. Joe struts and preens like a young Mick Jagger.
The music is high-energy, the stagecraft is polished to a dazzling sheen. This 3D Concert Experience isn’t so much about the music as it is the spectacle—and at the center of it all are the Jonas Brothers—genuine rock stars who say “please” and “thank you” and reportedly (though we don’t see it in the film) pray backstage before every concert.
Yeah, it’s hard not to like and root for these guys. And (as the father of a couple of teens) be pleased that young ’uns have focused so much energy on praising a trio of pretty decent role models.
3-D! Look at Me!
But all that said, this movie’s focus on awestruck adulation kinda creeped me out.
At one point the Jonas Brothers stand on pillars that slowly ascend, until the lyrical lads are literally on 20-foot-high pedestals, far above the jubilant throng. They sing from up on high, then stop. The house lights in Madison Square Garden go on, and the audience screams louder. And louder. The Jonases soak it in, occasionally waving or blowing a kiss.
And it occurred to me as I watched: This wasn’t as much a rock performance now as … worship.
Before I go down this road too far, I’ll point out that every musical concert—be it rock, jazz, zydeco or opera—carries an odor of worship: Every eye is focused onstage as the crowd tithes with applause. And the Jonases are far from the first band to inspire this sort of enthralled ecstasy from fans. Folks who attended early Beatles concerts probably never even heard the music. Elvis all but invented the swooning teen queen.
Still, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience feels a bit self-indulgent. It’s as if Joe, Kevin and Nick are saying, “We know you love us, and here’s a whole movie documenting just how much you love us.” And, as a result, it encourages audiences to love and adore them all the more. Too much, some would say.
I can’t help but wish that these young Christians would’ve deflected, somehow, a bit of the adulation heavenward. But I also can’t deny that so far they’ve let their actions speak louder than their words—churning out one of the most positive, popular routines in recent memory. This is a band of brothers that has stood up for most of the right things. And so I’ll try to refrain from screaming as I join in the applause.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.