Movie #31: This Is It

The best parts of the Michael Jackson concert-rehearsal film This Is It were the numbers which were closest to complete, with full blown choreography, spectacle, and music. As most people already know, Jackson’s untimely death prevented him from performing the 50 sold out shows for which this movie showed him preparing. In lieu of actual concert footage, the video that was shot over a few rehearsals was nicely stitched together so that the audience gets to watch one song after another (almost like an actual concert). I’m not a huge fan of Jackson’s, but I do enjoy a lot of his music, so for me it wasn’t the up-close-and-personal moments (there aren’t many in this movie) or the simple numbers (where it’s just him performing without the hoopla) that kept my attention. Nevertheless, I was duly impressed by Jackson’s skills as a performer, and especially as a dancer. They don’t show any earlier clips of Jackson developing the choreography, or rehearsing the performances alone. However, whenever he came out on the stage to rehearse, he’s got every beat right and the moves flowed from him very naturally. In a regular concert documentary, I imagine there’d be scenes of the star flubbing numbers, a few bloopers, but there are none here. Not until halfway through the movie, are there even moments of Jackson appearing flustered or needing to actually practice. When he does, though, we see a hint of Jackson’s oddness. I guess we’ve seen it before, but just the way he describes things in very dreamy, fairytale ways is a bit different. I also enjoyed the pre-filmed video that was going to be included in the concert, especially the film noir segments for Smooth Criminal. In my opinion, these kinds of over-the-top productions were as much a part of the appeal of Jackson’s music as the songs themselves. Unfortunately those productions seemed to be a little overwrought for numbers such as Thriller (it was going to include 3D video of zombies crawling out of the grave) and especially a whole pro-environment sequence with nature footage and a sweet little girl crawling through an edenic jungle while butterflies danced around her. I’m not sure if the voiceover of Michael making his “heal the world” speech was intended to be part of the concert, but it was a way heavy-handed portion of the movie. Finally, many reviews written at the time expressed difficulty separating the movie from the circumstances of Jackson’s death. It was less recent for me today, and I had no problem taking the movie for what it was, independent of the off-stage details. As much as I enjoyed the experience, the movie is pretty much a promotional device for a performance that never materialized. Even though I didn’t have tickets or any thoughts of attending, I’m a bit disappointed about that because it clearly would have been an amazing show. (3.5 out of 5)

31 down, 19 to go!

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