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“Michael Jackson’s This Is It”- (Chris)
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date:
Special Features:



“Michael Jackson’s This Is It” is a bittersweet experience. How can it not be? It’s safe to say that the footage it contains is the last to show Michael Jackson alive. No, not merely alive – he practically surges with energy as he dances on stage in ways we’ve come to expect (save for the Moonwalk, shown ever so briefly at a disappointingly odd angle). ***

We see not the frail fifty-year-old beaten down by years of legal battles, molestation allegations, financial woes, and drug abuse, but a seemingly tireless entertainer flawlessly keeping up with his much younger background dancers. Could he have been counteracting his nightly propofol injections with a daily dose of uppers? It’s a reasonable possibility. Propofol is not meant to be used as a sleeping aid, but as the first stage of general anesthesia and only under the supervision of trained physicians. ***

Be that as it may, this film reveals that Jackson was still capable of putting on a good show even weeks before his death. Compiled from hours of footage shot during the rehearsals of his comeback concert tour, This Is It is astounding entertainment, assembled under the supervision of Kenny Ortega to play more or less as a real concert would have played. ***

The only exceptions are the moments of backstage conversing, in which Jackson, Ortega, and numerous dancers and musicians discuss the direction of the show and ways in which to improve it. When a mistake is made, no one reacts badly; Jackson in particular shows remarkable compassion by saying, “This is why we have rehearsals.” His fellow performers listen attentively, not only because they want to put on the best possible show for concertgoers, but also because ... well, because they’re working with Michael Jackson. ***

Indeed, there is something powerful, if a little dramatic, about how devoted the background dancers are to the King of Pop. Just after the opening titles, we see footage of young men and women gushing over him, thanking him from the bottoms of their hearts for giving them this opportunity. Some are reduced to tears. ***

Would they react this way in the presence of any other singer? More to the point, has any other singer instilled such deep feelings within his or her fan base? You watch them completely transfixed, and while you may not share their point of view, you almost certainly will feel the adoration coming off the screen. ***

The same can be said for the intensity of the concert footage. Every song is carefully orchestrated and masterfully combined with mesmerizing dance sequences. “They Don’t Care About Us” combines live dancers with a screen full of futuristic soldiers moving to the rhythms (this effect was achieved by means of motion-capture technology). ***

“Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal” are accompanied by elaborate filmed sequences; the former features a newly shot graveyard sequence while the latter features Jackson digitally combined with screen idols like Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart. ***

“Black or White” ends with a fantastic electric guitar duel that will have you applauding. “Human Nature” and “Billie Jean” rely less on special effects and more on Jackson’s dancing abilities; this isn’t as visually stunning, but it certainly feels more personal. ***

Where on earth did Jackson find the energy for this? Watching him in “This Is It,” you almost forget that he ended up dying of cardiac arrest brought on by a drug overdose. You also almost forget that the overdose was brought on by years of addiction; when you have to rely on potentially lethal medications like propofol, lorazepam, and midazolam for something as ordinary as sleep, it stands to reason that one would not be functional the next day, or any other day. ***

And yet there’s Jackson, up on stage moving his body with the speed and agility of a man half his age. Right up to the end, he still had it. But one wonders: Would he have been able to maintain that level of energy if he had lived to start his concert tour? ***

“This is my final curtain call,” Jackson said when announcing his comeback tour at London’s O2 arena back in March. “This is it.” These words sounded ominous even then. I don’t claim to be a diehard Michael Jackson fan, but all the same, I think it would have been interesting to see him try rebuilding his career. What other albums would have been released? Could there have been something even more successful than “Thriller,” which won eight Grammys and is currently the best-selling album of all time? What songs would we have heard on them? Would any of them be played on the radio? ***

Special Features:

This DVD includes two making-of documentaries and four featurettes, one about his glove, the second about the costumes, the third about memories of Michael, the fourth about auditioning dancers for the concert. The film is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen format and features Dolby 5.1 Digital sound. ***

Final Words:

Even though we’ll never hear anything new from the King of Pop, we can at least be grateful for the music he left us with. We can also be grateful for “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” which is not only a fine example of music, choreography, and staging, but is also one of the most entertaining documentaries I’ve ever seen.


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