MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Documentary-Concert/ Stars: Michael Jackson/Runtime: 111 minutes
It was a truly sad day that June day all the way back in that long-gone year of 2009 when the news broke across the planet that we had lost one of the most widely known entertainers the world over. A true sensation in every sense of the word and whose career spanned decades, gave us countless hits that we still sing and dance to this very day, and who (despite private life controversy) still had managed to accrue millions of fans across the globe. Yet despite being easily one of the most known people of the 20th century, the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson was actually hard at work on a massive comeback tour in London. A tour known simply as “This Is It” that were also supposed to get underway mere weeks following his tragic and untimely demise. Of course it was long after that word started going around that work had begun on putting together a farewell film of sorts that was being constructed through the use of footage that was filmed during the rehearsals for the comeback tour. Suffice it to say the reaction to this new was…well let’s say varied to say the least as in the lead-up to the release of this slice of cinematic pie there were those who felt that this might work and then there were those who erred on the side of caution and saw it as nothing more than a soulless cash grab on the legacy of a truly unique performer. Thankfully, I can confirm that this slice of cinematic pie, taking its title from that proverbial comeback tour, manages to work beautifully well for both those people who have been fans of Michael since his Jackson 5 days and those who are fairly new to the man and his music and in the process work as a potent and quite riveting entry in the documentary genre of movie magic. More than that though, this is also a slice of cinematic pie that is overflowing with energy and showcases the proverbial “King of Pop” as a very quiet yet lively person who had no less than 120% when it came to his love for what he did, respect for who he did it for, and his devotion to trying to change the world for the better. Yet I feel I should let you know dear reader: This is It is not a bio-pic so don’t expect this to cover the man’s life, his highs and lows, that one particular scandal, his idiosyncrasies, or just the general overwhelming controversy that seemed to follow him late in life wherever he went. Rather, This is It functions at showing Michael when he was engaged in the day to day of conjuring up a truly spectacular show for those who adored him and who adored his music. Put another way dear reader: This is It is a riveting showcase of The King of Pop doing the very thing he was put on this Earth to do.
The plot is as follows: This Is It takes us back to spring 2009 where we witness as music icon Michael Jackson, a man who had been in the spotlight since he was part of the Jackson 5 back in the late 60s, was engaged in returning to performing following a decade-long hiatus. To that end, this slice of cinematic pie (entitled after that proverbial comeback tour) showcases the King of Pop whilst in his various rehearsals for that comeback tour and in the process gives us an in-depth look into what could have been and, perhaps just as crucially, an analysis of the heart and soul of a quiet yet phenomenal man who was on the cusp of going back to the thing he loved above all else. In addition, the film (as helmed by one Kenny Ortega) concentrates not just on the music, but the guy who created and his appreciation/respect for his craft. A man who, despite being shown as a perfectionist, was also a laid-back icon who was very welcoming and who we get to see in the process of delivering some of his most iconic work such as “Black or White”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Beat It”, and of course “Thriller”. In addition, this slice of cinematic pie also showcases the aspiration of a diverse group of dancers who were driven to do what it took to get to be on stage with the legend, the technology and advanced sets that were to be utilized for the tour, and even the costumes that Jackson was to wear themselves. Suffice it to say then that though the majority of this slice of cinematic pie’s concentration is on Jackson, it also manages to function as a riveting look at the support work around the man who many saw as an icon of music, and who equally as many referred to as the King of Pop…
Now even though the untimely demise of its lead star is no longer on everyone’s minds or even the biggest story on the planet, this slice of cinematic pie still manages to be just as timely and engaging even if there is not even a hint of an ominous mood hanging overhead to really deter this slice of cinematic pie’s riveting look into the world of its subject. Instead, this film is genuine, even emotion at points, and extremely well made. Now in addition to Jackson’s on stage skill, his singing talent, and the intrigue surrounding even just this footage to say nothing of the awe at seeing what might have been, another star that this slice of cinematic pie has in its repertoire is film helmer Kenny Ortega’s construction of the footage in a way that not only showcases Jackson belting out the tunes we all know and love, but that also in the process constructs a narrative that is driven in equal parts by pathos, heart, and purpose. Indeed this movie thankfully is a fiesta of the man’s life and of his skill instead of just operating as a cinematic in memoriam. To that end, the fact that the movie concludes without going into the fallout of Jackson’s demise will leave you feeling energized rather than sad and happy you got to witness what you just rather having to remember how you felt when you learned about a loss that stunned the planet. Suffice it to say then that is one slice of cinematic pie that manages to memorialize an individual by showcasing his skill that, despite not having done anything concert related in a decade, was still just as lively, hardworking, aiming to do no less than 120% to say nothing of doing it because it, along with the fans, was his first true love as it always had been and ultimately always would be.
It should also be noted that most assuredly, documentary helmer Kenny Ortega’s gift for storytelling here is top-flight especially when taking into account that Ortega was able to build a narrative where there was not one in the first place, a daunting task most assuredly for any film helmer, but especially so when dealing with an individual who has been featured frequently in the press and who was not just adored by fans on a global scale, but easily could be called one of the finest talents in both the music and entertainment industries of the past 5 decades to boot. To that end, it should be noted that as the helmer on this Ortega does a truly wonderful job and this movie does an equally as wonderful job at showcasing a tone that, in addition to being integrity-laced, also never feels like it is trying to manipulate anything for monetary gain; rather it simply feels like it is trying to bring Jackson’s career full circle and in the process wrap it with a documentary that is befitting both Jackson and the legacy that he left behind. Ultimately though, where this film truly manages to showcase its power and potency comes from seeing Jackson perform and as a result, the movie permits those who watch it to truly immerse themselves in each song, and at the same time invites you to truly enjoy yourself with each song that is rehearsed. Indeed if you are one of those who is a novice when it comes to Michael’s catalogue of music, the manic energy behind whenever he performed and the engaging rhythm his music had to it is showcased beautifully. Indeed if Jackson was putting this much energy into mere rehearsals, one can only ponder on just how powerful, artistic, and truly majestic the finished product would have been. Sadly this did prove to be it, but thankfully the legacy of this bonafide star will live on due not just to the music he left behind, but also to just how emotional, incredible, and fun this truly one-in-a-million slice of cinematic pie ultimately turns out to be.
All in all I am pleased to say that Michael Jackson’s This Is It really truly is a top-flight entry in the genre of filmmaking known as the documentary. More than that though, this is also a slice of cinematic pie that manages to brilliantly pull double duty and function as both a riveting final bow for one of the most iconic singers of the past 5 decades as well as a wonderful movie from a thematic and just plain engaging point of view. Indeed managing to be quite astonishingly immersive and emotional, but also a heck of a lot of fun if only because you love the man’s music, This Is It proves to be a top-flight film that will most assuredly please those who have been fans of Michael Jackson forever and day yet at the same time also operate as a riveting, and with no bias at that, intro to the man, his music, and his legacy. Suffice it to say then that that thanks to being both a visual extravaganza to say nothing of posthumously functioning as a celebration of the life of a genuinely one-in-a-million artist, This Is It is a fine movie plain and simple. On a scale of 1-5 I give Michael Jackson’s This Is It a solid 4 out of 5.