Saturday, October 31, 2009

Michael Jackson's This Is It (***)

Michael Jackson's This Is It. 111 mins. PG. Directed by Kenny Ortega. Starring Michael Jackson.

This Is It is about as good as it can be, but it's just a shame that this is what audiences have to watch rather than the real thing. Culled from who knows how many hours of rehearsal footage, This Is It shows Michael Jackson preparing for a series of concerts in Europe that would play to the fans, rake in a ton of money, and hopefully get him out of debt. There's a lot of good footage here, and the show's director, Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Newsies), also serves as the movie's director. He does a nice job of keeping the focus on Michael and moving the picture along. It's basically split up into a series of bits on each song, and the audience is given a sense of what the concert would have actually been like. Based on what's presented here, it would have been one heck of a concert. Michael is in top form, at least voice wise, and he certainly still has some dance moves. At times, his movements seem out of this world, and I guess the same could be said of Michael's personality. He's a weird dude, to be sure, but he's immensely talented and This Is It captures that dynamic. This is definitely not a full profile of the man. My big drawback with the movie is the fact that this was never supposed to be a movie. Rehearsal footage is interesting and all, but it means that we're never treated to a full blown performance. Michael kind of half sings and half goes through the steps the whole time - it's never 100%. So as a concert film, it's good, but not great - an unfortunately unfinished project. The other issue I had with it is that because the movie focuses so much on Michael and never strays too far from him for too long, we only get quick, fleeting glimpses of the behind-the-scenes action - how the show was created, the costumes, the choreography, the production elements, etc. That stuff is in there, but not enough, so as a full-fledged "behind the curtain"-type of documentary, This Is It comes up short. Still, there's no denying Michael's legacy, and This Is It does justice to both the man and his music.

- John


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