Review: Barbra Streisand concert film a gooey lump of blah

This image released by Netflix shows Barbra Streisand in a scene from her concert special, “Barbra: The Music ... The Mem'ries ... The Magic!” debuting Wednesday on Netflix. (Netflix via AP)

The point of paying for a baby sitter, fighting traffic and paying huge ticket prices to go see your favourite music act in the flesh is to see them working hard — to see them sweat. But you'll never catch even a bead of perspiration in the new Barbra Streisand concert film.

An icy Babs efficiently runs through various hits in her vast catalogue without a hint of strain or unscripted patter in the tedious "Barbra: The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic!" on Netflix.

Filmed in Miami, the last stop in her 2016 tour, we see Streisand often sitting on a chair and delivering her songs while staring in the middle distance or simply with her eyes closed. The audience mostly sits reverentially.

She kicks it off with "Memories" and then goes down memory lane with classics such as "Everything" and "Evergreen" from "A Star Is Born," ''No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," an overwrought "Being at War With Each Other," ''You Don't Bring Me Flowers," ''Being Alive" from "Company" and an alarmingly over-the-top "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" from "Yentl."

After an intermission — and a costume change — it's on to "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and a video about how so many Hollywood stars were freaked out to be able to perform on her latest duets album.

There's also "Losing My Mind" from "Follies," ''Isn't This Better" from "Funny Lady," then "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "People." The concert gets progressively more drowsy until Jamie Foxx adds a jolt of pure electricity as its only special guest. He revs up the crowd and sings an awesome "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" with Streisand, delivering a 7-minute tour de force.

He's badly missed as soon as we're back to just Babs. She sings "Jingle Bells" and "With One More Look at You." Her encore, "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," comes after awkward patter. Then we see Barbra eat a post-concert dinner of crabs. Seriously.

It's all so very slick and calculated, right down to the digital petals that fall on a projection screen behind Streisand, the film montages or the elegant tea set on a side table with perfect flowers in a vase. Yes, her voice is superb, a perfectly calibrated sports car. But there's no soul. Her small fluffy dog has more charisma.

A self-serving Streisand likes to name-drop Bill Clinton and remind the crowd about her vast success, including a CD of Broadway tunes she insisted on recording despite contrary advice and a history of her No. 1 albums over six decades. The audience roars at that but Babs coolly responds: "It's OK. Didn't mean to have applause there. It's just a fact." At one point she plugs her upcoming book if we want more details on some stories.

Over 100 minutes, Streisand manages to say nothing provocative, insightful or even very interesting. She insists old Broadway show tunes will never be out of date, hopes red states and blues states can "come together" and laments that climate change is real but her prescription is to make a wish and go into her mind to create the world the way she wants it to be. (The polar bears will love that one.)

"I've been blessed that so many of my dreams have come true," she says at one point. "So all you little girls out there, even if you want to be president of the United States, don't stop dreaming. Nothing's impossible."

At no point does Streisand really interact with the crowd. In fact, she barely listens to their shouted requests or adorations. "I'm feeling the love," she tells them but it feels like a lie. One suspects she'd perform exactly like this in a completely empty arena, a ballgowned, straight-haired superstar on pure autopilot. Give it to Barbra: She never lets you see her sweat.

"Barbra: The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic!," a Netflix release, is rated TV-14. Running time: 1:48 minutes. One star out of four.

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TV Parental Guidelines definition of TV-14: This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age.

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Online: https://www.netflix.com/title/80203522

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits


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