There are some movies that I go into having already given them a grade. It's really up to the movie from that point as to how that grade can be altered. If I've already pre-determined it's going to get a high mark, that movie holds its own fate. If I've already determined I probably won't like it, it has some work to do. It may not be fair, but it is what it is. Real talk. "This is It" was one of those where an "A" was already in its future. I mean, come on...it's Michael Jackson.
"Michael Jackson's This Is It" offers fans worldwide a rare, behind-the scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place this summer in London's O2 Arena. It features Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show complete with the dancers, musicians, singers and in some cases even the costumes and corresponding special effects.
I had heard some knocks early on that it wasn't a true documentary and folks were disappointed that it didn't provide any interviews with Mike. I look at it differently. It wasn't intended to be a documentary. Mike had already done a concert movie back in the day. The one that came on HBO. So now we get the chance to see what goes into the making of such a production. Some of it very polished and some still rough, but that's what makes it all the better to watch.
It would have been nice to see Mike update his dance repertoire just a little bit. There were moments where he looked like he was going to integrate a more recent move or two, but it was fleeting. That leads me to believe that maybe he was saving more of the flash for the actual show. You get that feeling throughout much of the film. Having said that, it was still pleasingly surreal to watch him perform his classic moves.
What really stood out in this movie is how Mike STILL had the pipes. There a couple of times when he sings a capella and you can't help but be amazed that he sounds just as vocally sound as he ever did in his prime. Probably even better. Most notably at the end of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" where he and back-up singer Judith Hill playfully exchange riffs. It will give you chills listening to how effective Mike was. He wanted to hold back to conserve his voice for the concert, but he got caught up in the moment. We ended up reaping the benefit.
The best part of the film was the new intros they had filmed for "Smooth Criminal" and "Thriller". Especially the "Smooth Criminal" one. That one was FONKY! You can tell it was going to be amazing how they would have seamlessly integrated the mini-movie with the live concert. Furthermore, it leads me to believe that the bigger vision was to eventually have footage from the live concert and even rehearsals be turned into a theatrical release concert movie. That would have been the one thing missing from MJ's resume. It's really too bad that would never happen.
It's really difficult to criticize any of the moments of the film that may have been lacking. Can you really talk about the fact that MJ didn't sing all of the lyrics to some of the songs as he did the dance moves? Or how there were moments where the pace of the music didn't follow the vocals? No, because that was the intent of the rehearsals in the first place: to flesh out those details and get it right for the final performance.
"This Is It" is without question a must-see for any and all Michael Jackson fans. It gives you a glimpse into the dedication, perseverance and determination that goes into one of his amazing shows. We get a chance to see a perfectionist and a visionary construct yet another concert that would have given his fans their money's worth and then some. At 50, MJ had more drive and passion than most of these fly-by-night MTV generation artists possess. There was no exploitation here at all. It was a fitting tribute worthy of its lofty rating.
My rating: A