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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.64%
Worth A Look: 20.51%
Just Average30.77%
Pretty Crappy: 20.51%
Sucks: 2.56%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Michael Jackson's This Is It
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The queasiest performance film since "Gimme Shelter."
3 stars

I feel a little bad for the stage dancers in "This Is It." There they are at the beginning of the film, many of them moved to tears by the very prospect of dancing onstage with their hero, Michael Jackson, for his projected farewell concert in London.

Well, they got to rehearse with him, anyway, and their efforts, captured on camera, are recorded for posterity. As the world now knows, Jackson’s This Is It concerts were not to be; he died less than a month before the first show.

One hundred hours of rehearsals were filmed for the concert crew’s own reference and for Jackson’s personal library; the footage was never intended to be seen by the public. We’re to understand that the show’s director (and the film’s credited director), Kenny Ortega, heard from so many fans wanting to see that footage that Ortega decided to put the film together for them. The truth is probably somewhat thornier; the concert promoter AEG Live, which took a $500 million bath from the fifty cancelled dates, has to make its money back somehow. Still, what’s left here is an interesting, if remote, portrait of an entertainment machine with a laser-precise vision of what he wanted.

It’s possible that the only time Michael Jackson was fully in control was when he was onstage, or doing prep work for a show. The rest of his life was mess and scandal and self-disfigurement, but in the lights, at least, he knew something about something. Always gracious, often appending his critiques “with love,” Jackson makes minute adjustments to the sound, the timing, the funkiness. We’ll never know what cocktail of meds he may or may not have been on, but mentally, in the film, he seems formidable. Physically, he often holds back, saving his voice, he repeatedly says, for the main event. He gladly gives the spotlight (“This is your turn to shine”) to Orianthi Panagaris, a 24-year-old Australian virtuoso guitarist always seen chewing gum. When you’ve played onstage with Steve Vai at age 15, you can probably get away with chewing gum in front of the King of Pop.

For obvious reasons, This Is It suffers from a patchwork style — the editors do a heroic job of stitching it all together into something coherent. The highlight, mid-film, is probably “Thriller” (notch up another movie credit for Vincent Price); we get a peek at what would’ve been an impressive multimedia 3D presentation. This megaproduction in general would likely have been quite a night out, though by necessity short on spontaneity; Jackson’s fans paid to see his act well-worked-out, not rough around the edges. The film shows only the bare bones of what might have been. It’s difficult to assess, on a narrative or even technical level, footage that we weren’t really supposed to see. But people are expected to pay to see it, so that’s where we critics come in.

This Is It shows a man, frail and (unwittingly) close to death, yet still packing iconic power. He doesn’t waste a movement or a word. His entire essence seems mixed into the music (much of which has odd levels of hostility and aggression for someone who talks constantly about peace and love). His fluid mechanical-man moves and his strange late-period martial iconography (as seen in “They Don’t Really Care About Us”) denote a control freak, or, more generously, a perfectionist, and it’s clear to me that the Michael Jackson we see here would not have wanted us to see the Michael Jackson we see here. His estate okayed the film, but his estate has bills to pay, too.

As a posthumous document, "This Is It" offers a veiled, vaseline-lens look behind the curtain. As a cultural event, it’s more than a little creepy and depressing. As with Elvis before him, the vultures will keep picking at this sad man-child’s bones until there’s nothing left.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19669&reviewer=416
originally posted: 11/01/09 14:03:50
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User Comments

1/05/14 dr.lao This is not how I want to remeber MJ, as a has-been trying to recapture his glory days 2 stars
8/24/13 Yourmom Greattttt movieee!!:):) 5 stars
5/29/11 RLan A must see for Michael Jackson fans, worth a look if your not. 4 stars
4/04/10 the dork knight You've been HIT by / You've been STRUCK by / A good documentery 4 stars
3/15/10 LP Quagmire There's never been a bigger movie starring a pedophile. 1 stars
12/16/09 rishabh it was gr8. do not analyse as if it was a concert. was just a rehearsal.mj is true legend 5 stars
11/16/09 Jane Miller I have seen the movie 6 times and counting. Each time is goes by quicker. Just loved it. 5 stars
11/11/09 Sal Awesome, seen it 5 times. Michael proves he will always be the King. Rob you are depressing 5 stars
11/11/09 Ligaya Saw 10/27 + this wknd. audiences clapped after ea. number/AWESOME - not creepy/depressing. 5 stars
11/03/09 mark Not an MJ fan, but gotta say, this was awesome 5 stars
11/02/09 irbear Luved it!!!!! 5 stars
11/02/09 Mikael A Dobrescu The Legend Never Dies! 5 stars
10/29/09 chris i think it's amazing, some peope just over analyze things 5 stars
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  28-Oct-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 26-Jan-2010


  DVD: 26-Jan-2010

Directed by
  Kenny Ortega

Written by

  Michael Jackson

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