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Review: '12-12-12' doesn't do Sandy relief concert justice

The documentary sacrifices musical performances for cutaway shots that take away from the excitement of the live event featuring Springsteen, the Stones and more.

By Robert Abele

12:00 PM EST, November 14, 2013

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If your DVR still holds the complete recording of last December's benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for Hurricane Sandy victims, the new film "12-12-12" is no reason to hit the delete button yet. Directors Amir Bar-Lev and Charlie Lightening put cameras everywhere, from the boardroom to backstage as serious music heavyweights came together to help earn $50 million in one night for the Robin Hood Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

We're talking Bruce Springsteen, the Stones, the Who, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Kanye West, Eddie Vedder with Roger Waters, Paul McCartney with a reunited Nirvana, and Alicia Keys. Celebs manned the phone banks too. (In one hilarious moment, Jake Gyllenhaal — bemused by the caller's unfamiliarity with him — passes the phone to Jesse Jackson.) 

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But instead of cramming as much onstage juice as possible into the running time, the movie offers a severely truncated set list and inexplicable cutaways mid-song to any famous face backstage (surely the doc equivalent of rudely scanning the room at a party), or the umpteenth shot of equipment being moved, or the live TV director in the control booth. The only worthwhile interruptions involve either blistering footage of the devastation itself, which at least serves to reinforce the importance of the night, or amusing antics, like Sir Paul singing the Monkees theme. It leaves "12-12-12" feeling busy, but not exactly invigorating.

"12-12-12." MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. At the ArcLight Sherman Oaks. 

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