I just watched the Michael Jackson documentary concert film, since it was available free here at work. I wasn’t much interested until I read the Variety review. I’d say Barker is pretty much on the money.
The last 50-year-old that light on his feet was Fred Astaire. It’s hard to believe Jackson was nearly dead, because he’s keeping up with dancers young enough to be his children. the “MJ” in this film is still the emotionally-stunted weirdo you remember – but also obviously still a major talent. It puts the lie to the idea that he was about to keel over.
I call it the “inadvertant documentary” because, while it’s meant as a valentine to Michael Jackson and his fans, it actually reveals a lot if you look around the edges. The opening will convince you that dancers are the saddest people in the world. And the picture it paints of the incredible, massive amount of work it takes to put on a giant show is fascinating. The mixers did an astoundingly good job on this film and much of this rehearsal footage sounds as good as a produced album. I, and a friend who is also in the business, was paying attention and I am convinced that these are the real live recordings and not studio work.
Jackson was able to assemble a group of amazing dancers and just awesomely tight musicians. Man, those people could play. And some of the arrangements (I’m looking at you, The Way You Make Me Feel) are really sweet. As Barker notes in Variety it’s also obvious that Michael still had his singing chops. Human Nature is just beautiful.
It’s interesting to note that when he’s singing and dancing he’s eloquent, and when he tries to talk it’s barely English. And in spite of Jackson’s earnest, childish, over-the-top environmentalism (if you can watch the little butterfly girl hug the world and not laugh you’re a better man than I) you just have to sing along and tap your toes.
The context of Jackson’s imminent death makes the whole thing bittersweet, and one cannot help but mourn that this amazing concert never got to happen. Even a friend who isn’t a Michael Jackson fan at all and never would have attended it was sorry it never took place. Kenny Ortega is to be thanked for making this movie. It’s not a goulish attempt to cash in on Jackson’s untimely death, but a huge gift to the dancers, musicians and crew who put their hearts and souls into an event that never happened. The best thing about it is seeing that it’s clear that they, and Jackson, really loved what they were doing. That’s what comes through, and that’s what makes This Is It, flaws and all, worth seeing.