Michael Jackson: This Is It
Rated PG; Directed by Kenny Ortega
The opportunity to watch Michael Jackson rehearse for a planned concert tour may not excite many of you, but Michael Jackson: This Is It offers an amazing piece of entertainment. This documentary is good. The music, the dancing, the pure joy in performing highlights Jackson’s rehearsals. It is also surprisingly affecting at times. Michael Jackson’s appearance and behavior could be off-putting, but there is nothing better than watching the man move on stage.
Filmed from April to June of this year, the footage, not intended for public viewing, gives audiences a chance to see Michael Jackson in his element. Jackson on stage is a star. He may dress weirdly, look strange, and talk about performing as “love,” but as soon as he is singing and dancing to his hit songs, it is hard not to smile while tapping your foot.
Director Kenny Ortega, who was directing the stage show, manages to edit together remarkable footage of Jackson. The man could dance. As we watch his enthusiastic group of backup dancers pull out amazing feats of choreography, Jackson is working just as hard as them. His singing was rarely done at full performance level during the rehearsals, but enough comes through to let us see how the performance would play for an audience. In fact, he often received applause from the crew and the dancers, who all seem excited for their chance to see Jackson in action. He even chastises the dancers for encouraging him, as he can’t help but go all out to please them.
The film shows us that Jackson was a perfectionist, but when he wants changes in lighting and music cues, his reasons make sense. When he says that a pause will allow things to “simmer” or that a turn to the audience before the music begins will make things “sizzle,” you know exactly what he means. We also see filmed segments for the show, including a dandy mash-up of classic film footage of Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart with new footage of Jackson.
What a live show this could have been. Michael Jackson was a pure showman. His unexpected death destroyed any chances to see the planned live show. If he had lived he may have had a tremendous comeback, but we would never have seen this film of him putting that comeback together. This film ultimately becomes a testament to the amazing talent of Michael Jackson.