Throughout the Michael Jackson documentary ‘This is It’ he and others constantly mention that the concert is all about reminding people to love one another. Like others born in the late 80’s and early 90’s I went into this doc with the idea that the legend might have loved a few choice people a little too much. That’s what happens when growing up around the time of seeing The King of Pop spending more time in court than on stage or in the studio. However I was curious to see what the documentary was really going to show, even if just to see if the man still had the moves that even my cousin, four years my senior, used to pull off at parties when we were kids.
Directed by Kenny Ortega, who was also the director of the concert series from which the footage is based on, the documentary plays like a Behind the Scenes of Jackson’s ‘This is It’ concert series that was meant to have occurred in London prior to his death. It is a mixture of rehearsal footage from the concert along with inserts of footage highlighting different aspects of the concert’s production and videos intended to be shown alongside the music during the concert.
If the movie had hoped to portray Michael Jackson as a ‘perfectionist’ it really succeeded in that aspect. As a performer Jackson is shown as a very meticulous general, demanding perfection from everyone included in his concert. In one scene Michael Jackson directs his musical director in prolonging the intro to one of his songs, insisting that he “Let it simmer.” The song does end up sounding much more dramatic thanks to Jackson’s advice and it’s merely one instance where Jackson displays what his many years of experience have taught him. Jackson was also shown to be willing to share the spotlight, allowing his guitarist a moment to shine on her own at the end of ‘Black and White.’
Of course for all the movie does to show what a comeback the would-be concert could have been for Jackson the film also manages to show snippets of the quirks Jackson is often ridiculed for. However unlike South Park, which takes Jackson’s mannerisms and exaggerates them ten-fold, the documentary presents Jackson like the man-child many people have considered him to be. For one, he giggles like a 5-year old when the previously mentioned musical director says the word booty. Also, throughout the movie Ortega seems to coddle the demanding Jackson, but this might simply be protocol when working with a mega star.
As far as the production scenes quality they’re a range of decent to good. Among the better ones is when the costume designer, Christian Audigier, explains how every facet of the concert was intended to be bigger than anything else before, and showing the insane amount of work done for Jackson’s costumes. The opening interviews with Jackson’s dancers displaying how greatly the King of Pop has influenced a number of generations felt like a bit much, although I’m sure those with a greater admiration for Mr. Jackson could empathize more than I could.
Despite however much the documentary grants insight into Jackson’s rehearsals at the end of the day it still needs to be entertaining for anyone other than die-hard Jackson fans to drop some cash to see it. While most songs were entertaining to see, with the video clips aiding a lot in keeping things from getting too tedious, I found myself losing interest due to Jackson’s unwillingness to display his pipes at full capacity in all but one truly entertaining scene where he and a backup singer try to one up one another (Guess who wins.) The videos shown though were pretty cool and Mr. Jackson’s fan-service is much appreciated even though he failed to include my personal favorite ‘Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough’.
‘This is It’ was meant for all those die-hard fans who were eager to see how Jackson’s “farewell concert” would have turned out and that’s it. With that number being in the millions, the creators appear unconcerned with appealing to anyone outside of his fan base. And for those expecting a close character study of Jackson, you will definitely be disappointed (He’s never really shown discussing the concert with the camera or doing anything other than working on the show). What you do get however is a two-hour long Jackson music video with some amusing moments and footage that at some points appears eerily intended to be used in a documentary. So if you’re a mere casual Jackson fan or even a die hard fan strapped for cash, I’d recommend instead staying at home and Youtubing the legend’s innovative music videos. Then again, seeing the King of Pop as something other than the caricature he was turned into late in his life is a nice way to close your personal book of Michael Jackson-related memories.