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Michael Jackson 'This Is It' - Movie Review

Michael Jackson's Last Performance and Legacy

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating
User Rating 4.5 Star Rating (4 Reviews)


Michael Jackson 'This Is It' - Movie Review

Michael Jackson in This Is It

This Is It is what it is -- a compilation of footage shot during several months of rehearsals for Michael Jackson's comeback tour, slated to premiere at London's O2 Arena on July 8, 2009. The shows never happened; Jackson died shortly before from an overdose of propofol and sedatives on June 25. Jackson's sudden and unexpected demise left dedicated fans bereft, concert ticket holders disappointed, tour promoters financially inconvenienced, and the general public bewildered about Jackson's physical condition and frame of mind while he prepared for the tour. This film puts some concerns to rest and deftly skirts others.

Spinning the King Of Pop

Although the film is categorized as a documentary, its director, Kenny Ortega, a long-standing Jackson collaborator and friend, states unequivocally that This is It is intended to satisfy fans with a final view of their beloved, dedicated and extraordinarily creative MJ, finally establish his artistic legacy and deliver his motivating messages about spreading love and healing the Earth. It is clearly a tribute to Jackson and would be better defined as a concert film, if there had been a fully realized concert to document.

Style and Substance

Throughout the film, we get glimpses of the concert's style and production values -- including mini-films that were shot to be lead-ins to songs or to serve as backdrops, flying orbs and aerialists' cages, as well as the use of stage machinery ranging from elevators that thrust dancers on to the stage to a hydrolic lift Jackson rides over the audience, and a grid of highrise platforms and ramps -- that would have been part of the spectacular concert.

Perhaps more importantly, we see Jackson's extraordinary work ethic. He just doesn't quit until his steps and sounds are perfect. For much of the film, he's marking his moves rather than giving his all, but there are many moments when his energy erupts and he reaches peak performance. Jackson, at 50 years of age and thin as a stick, is consistently able to keep up with dancers who are half his age. And, although he says repeatedly that he's conserving his voice, Jackson's vocal quality is still enormously pleasing. The documentary -- or rockumentary -- is entertaining.

Songs, Set and Message

Michael Jackson in This is It Poster

The film presents some of Jackson's biggest hits, including Thriller, Billie Jean, Man In The Mirror and others. Although most of the songs have slightly revised vocal arrangements and choreography, and new effects, there's a lot that's comfortably familiar about them, too.

Between the numbers, we see Jackson interacting with his cast and crew. It's all very friendly. Jackson is gentle. Cast and crew adore him.

Towards the end of the film, Jackson, Ortega, cast and crew stand in a circle holding hands, and the 'message' about saving the world and spreading love is articulated. It's a nice message, and it may well be sincere, but save the world chatter is easy, and this seems like lip service.

The Bottom Line

Michael Jackson was a consummate artist but he remains an enigmatic person. This is It isn't the least bit probing or analytical. Always implying that it gives you intimacy, it simply reiterates Jackson's public persona. It completely avoids all of the controversies swirling around Jackson's behavior. And, while it's very sad to know that such a talented person is no longer among us, it's reassuring that we have this memorial to his artistry. But if you're looking for new insights or understanding about Jackson's personal life and ethos, this film is not for you.

On the other hand, if you're looking for more to adore about MJ, you'll probably find satisfaction in This is It -- and if the film doesn't quite bring closure to those still reeling from Jackson's death, there's enough rehearsal footage left over to make several more "documentaries."

If You Like This Documentary, You Might Also Like

Film Details:

  • Michael Jackson: This Is It
  • Director: Kenny Ortega
  • Release Date: October 28, 2009
  • Running Time: 112 mins.
  • MPAA Rating: PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA
  • Location: Staples Center, downtown Los Angeles
  • Language: English
  • Company: AEG/Sony Pictures
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