The sight of New Jerseyites singing on a street corner in the wake of Hurricane Sandy proves a fitting opening for 12-12-12, a documentary about the Madison Square Garden concert that brought together numerous musical luminaries to raise relief funds.
Delivering on-the-scene glimpses of the storm’s wrath before segueing to behind-the-scenes efforts to stage the show, Amir Bar-Lev and Charlie Lightening’s film begins as a promo piece for the show’s organizers — The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein, MSG’s James Dolan, and Clear Channel’s John Sykes — who wax philosophical about New York’s “indomitable spirit” (Weinstein) and threaten underlings when the online donation system becomes temporarily unavailable (Dolan).
Once the lights go down, numbers by Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, The Who, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Alicia Keys, and Paul McCartney (temporarily backed by the remaining members of Nirvana) help mitigate the project’s somewhat self-congratulatory tone.
An amusingly rewritten rendition of “Hallelujah” by Adam Sandler remains the surprise standout amid so many old British rocker classics, conveying not just the city’s resolve but its own self-deprecating sense of humor.
Despite some pleasant backstage-footage filler, however, 12-12-12 ultimately so truncates its artists’ performances (each is given one song, and those are heavily edited) that the effect is like watching the original TV broadcast in fast-forward.