Review: This is It a Nice Homage

"This is It is, at its core, an homage to Michael's art."


It's generally pointless to discuss marketing where films are concerned. Too many marketers are trying to hit too many demographics with too many advertisements, and thus it becomes a bit like unscrambling an egg. But in the case of Michael Jackson's This is It there truly are only two main crowds: 1) Fans who want to see it and could care less about anything besides the music and 2) Non-fans who won't be seeing it anyway. And so I'm pretty sure it's my obligation to tell the fans what they'll be getting for their buck. Here goes nothing.

Michael Jackson, for a period of about 20 years, was the biggest thing in pop. He won 13 Grammy Awards and had 17 number one singles. He sold three quarters of a billion records worldwide, and it's safe to say you don't get to that place without having something extremely captivating about you -- which is precisely what Jackson was in reality and in this film: captivating. His prodigious singing ability was eclipsed only by his phenomenal dancing talents. He was soft-spoken, but a true entertainer, a born creator, the type of performer whose influence was unmatched. This is It does a great job at showcasing this talent, leading us through great versions of "Smooth Criminal," "Man in the Mirror," and "I'll Be There." There are probably 15 full song performances in all; they form the bulk of the film's nearly two-hour running time. In between the songs we're treated to little vignettes: either Michael's dance team waxing poetic about the joys of working with Michael or his band members talking about the exuberance of jamming with MJ. The respect and love for Jackson is evident throughout, director Kenny Ortega is front and center as a Jackson advocate, making sure each and every lighting and sound cue goes according to the pop icon.

That said, if you're looking to "understand" the King of Pop, this isn't the film for you. Jackson was clearly a mystery, personally and professionally, and this concert practice footage does very little to shine a light on who he was as a person, or how he'd gotten to that point in his life. This is It is, at its core, an homage to Michael's art. It's not trying to be an expose or a documentary, it's trying to give the fans one last crack at seeing Michael perform. Once you find peace with the motivations of the movie you'll probably have little trouble enjoying it. After all, Jackson clearly knew how to hold the audience's attention.

There's a moment in This is It where something goes wrong with a song and Michael is left scowling on stage. He stops singing, just going through the motions to get the blocking down, and when they cut the music he makes his distaste with one of the choices known. Everyone around him agrees, and the band starts the song over. This time Michael is happy, bouncing around, throwing out dance moves and high-pitched vocal squeals to his tiny but supportive crew audience. He's back in the moment, back in the spotlight, probably the place he was most comfortable in the world. My guess is that, if you're the type of fan who buys a ticket to the film, you'll be happy to see him there, one last time.

Grade: B