Going into the movie, I had a couple questions rattling around in my head.
Will This Is It be more than a concert movie?
Will we get any insight into Michael Jackson which could tell us more about who he was and what he was going through at the time of his death?
What crazy statement will La Toya make?
It turns out This Is It is not a concert movie. It is a chance to go behind the scenes to see the artist at work crafting his show and rehearsing moments that will explode on stage to make the audience's jaws drop (we even get to see crotch grabbing lessons!). It is something we have never seen from Jackson before, and with all of the pyrotechnics, background film footage incorporated into the live show on stage and dynamic presence of one of the greatest entertainers of all time, this would have been one helluva show if the star was with us today.
Director Kenny Ortega, who was working with Jackson on this farewell tour, attempts to share with us all of the work going into making this last set of shows Jackson's fond farewell and crowning moment of glory. In a way, I feel bad they have used this footage after Jackson's death. Much like I object to the use of Chris Farley's image in DirectTV ads or John Wayne showing up in beer ads, no one asked Michael Jackson if he wanted this footage to be viewed by the public, while others handsomely profit from it. You can see how he is trying out different moves, experimenting with choreography and cues, singing to help learn and teach the arrangements, but, in his own words, "saving my voice."
Yet, there is something undeniably fascinating as Jackson can't resist the moment. He starts giving it his all during certain songs, and busts out some funky dance moves to show, even at 75% speed, he is better than 99% of the dancers on the planet.
Then, the audience is treated to surprising and candid moments like Jackson gleefully riding the cherry picker that would have been part of the show, or Ortega unabashedly sucking up to Jackson by constantly reinforcing his thoughts and changes (That's great Mike. You're right Mike). You even see Jackson the Taskmaster who has his vision and will see it come to life (with a smile and a reminder that he loves you, after you took a bit of a scolding).
It would have been great to see more interviews with the people involved in the production, which would give us more information about why they are so happy to be there or explaining what was so groundbreaking about what we are seeing, but we get enough of that to understand.
This Is It gives fans a night to forget about the hyperbaric chambers, the Elephant Man's bones, and all of those horrible stories about what happened at Neverland to watch the guy who burst on the scene to make us all dance.
3 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)
This Is It is rated PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times