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Starring: Michael Jackson (duh)
Director: Kenny Ortega

It's very vogue to get on the Michael Jackson bandwagon since his death a few months back. Everyone who used to call him weird and a molester seems like they have done a 180 and become obsessed. That happens with every music death, to a degree: when Ray Charles and Johnny Cash passed, people were all of a sudden Ray Charles and Johnny Cash fans, especially once their movies hit.

Now, me personally never believed the molestation rumors and sure, he was weird. To be that good, you have to be eccentric. My youth was Michael Jackson, from dressing up to him for Halloween to attempting to learn the Billie Jean dance from the Motown show in the 80's that put him on the map as a singles star. MJ was my idol and when he died, a part of my childhood died.

Thankfully, Kenny Ortega and crew have decided to profit off his death with the release of This Is It, a collection of rehearsal footage from what was going to be his swan song concert series in London at the O2 Arena. As they say on the poster...you do get an insight into the man you never knew. All we ever saw was MJ being polished and ready to go on stage, and here, we get more of the experience of creating the show and all the manpower and rehearsal it really took for the crazy stage stuff he used to do.

From what you see in this film, this was going to be a grandiose production: 3D videos, MJ inserting himself into old gangster movies, lots of pyro, lots of pomp and circumstance...the sheer size of it is intimidating, even on a movie screen. In the doc, MJ is all work work work. He is driven, disciplined, and he is ready to go. He knows what he wants from people, how he wants to be presented, every minutiae detail seems to have been thought out from his brain. Creepy or not, that is just straight impressive. I'm barely motivated to write crappy reviews on a film site, let alone stage a show that encapsulates so much into one thing.

Performance wise, it's very low-key as it was just rehearsal and not the actual show yet. He doesn't go all out, but you see the flashes of brilliance he had as a performer, with maybe half a step lost due to rust and getting older. Also, one kind of annoying thing and it's a minor spoiler: he doesn't moonwalk. Seriously.

From the doc, you get the sense of how shy MJ is at the same time. While he is doling out orders and doing the dance moves and being awesome, at the same time you can feel how disconnected and aloof he truly was. The guy was lonely, and he didn't know how to relate to people. Also, his childlike sense of humor is there, laughing at the word "booty", which can be creepy to some, but I've got friends who make fart noises at 23 and still laugh.

The entourage Michael has is full of either grateful backup dancers or ass kissing yes men. Everyone is telling MJ at all points how great it is and how awesome it is, feeding into either he needed constant coddling or people were afraid to express themselves. Kenny Ortega, who directed the stage show and gets the credit for this doc, comes off kind of patronizing at some points and he annoyed me whenever he opened his mouth.

Look, it's very simple: if you love MJ, you'll love this. If you hate MJ, you'll hate this. There is no middle ground here. The collection of footage looks really well for something that was going to just be seen by MJ and whoever needed to help tweak the show, but who cares about the technical stuff? You get a glimpse into the performer and even a little into the man MJ was, and I don't care how weird he got...I will miss him.

Final Verdict:
A

 


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