Tuesday, December 1, 2009
MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT / ***½
Release Date: October 28, 2009
Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
MPAA Rating: PG
I grew up transfixed by Michael Jackson. I remember watching MTV and VH1 hoping they would show his videos, and I got excited at the announcement of a new one. I received the cassette tape of the album “Dangerous” for Christmas one year, the first music I ever owned. He was seemingly the most popular person in the universe, and I couldn’t get enough.
During the ‘90s, Jackson’s reputation began to suffer irreparable damage. I don’t need to recount all of the incidents; I’m sure most people reading this will remember at least one or two. His last studio album, “Invincible,” arrived with a whimper. The mighty had truly fallen.
Then, in early 2009, Jackson announced that he would embark on a 50-show run from July of 2009 through March of 2010 at the O2 arena in London. He emphatically declared: “This Is It.”
Jackson tragically died mere weeks before the tour was set to begin. While fans the world over mourned the loss of the King of Pop, it was announced that filming was ongoing during the rehearsals, and that footage would be cut together into a documentary by director Kenny Ortega. The result is an unprecedented look at the creative process of one of the most brilliant entertainers to ever live.
The film completely humanizes Jackson – watching him interact with the people around him, I found myself surprised at how “normal” he appeared. After years of hearing about how insane he was supposed to be, Jackson comes off as warm, caring, and not at all crazy.
Ortega succeeds at showing not only the rehearsals, but also giving audiences a look at how the finished product would have looked. Special footage that was intended to be used in songs such as “Earth Song,” “Thriller,” and “They Don’t Care About Us,” among others, is presented here. Over the course of 121 minutes, many classic MJ songs are shown, including “Jam,” “Black or White,” “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Billie Jean,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and many more, all with elaborate performance designs.
Jackson is heavily involved in all aspects of the performance, and is an unabashed perfectionist. One of the great joys in the film is to see Jackson become so caught up in the moment during rehearsal and give the crew something special. After a particularly emotional rendition of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” Jackson chides the crew for applauding him, because he should have been saving his voice for the audience.
It’s truly a shame that Jackson didn’t get the chance to perform for the world one last time. He looks vibrant and alive, and several times can be seen with a genuine smile. He was happy putting together this show that from the looks of it was going to be nothing short of spectacular.
For someone who had his name repeatedly drug through the mud during the last decade or so of his life, it was a rewarding experience to see this Michael Jackson one last time. Sadly, this really is it.
Theater: RDM Westroads 14, Omaha, NE
Time: 4:40 pm