October 28, 2009
LOS ANGELES (RPRN) 10/28/09 — Sony Pictures upbeat “it” documentary, the triumphant return of the King of Pop **** Four Stars
By Robin Rowe
“Love is important,” says the late Michael Jackson in the spectacular documentary This Is It. “This is an adventure. Give your all. We have four years to get it right. Or, it’s irreversible.” Jackson is talking about his concern for the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and of the planet Earth.
Speaking softly and hardly at all, Michael Jackson was most comfortable speaking through his music, which he does eloquently. If you’re expecting the off-stage 24×7 invasion of privacy that is Madonna’s Truth or Dare, you won’t find that with This Is It. Nor will you see the sad tale or an artist’s life tragically ended by a drug overdose. And, you won’t see some sort of dimming star late stage Elvis. What you’ll see is an amazing re-emergence of the great pop music icon Michael Jackson. It’s an Oscar-worthy film.
This Is It traces on the rehearsals and other preparations for the fifty-show This Is It concert that Michael Jackson planned for his 50th birthday. His sold-out concerts would have taken place starting this summer in London’s O2 Arena. The documentary focuses on Michael Jackson’s work from April through June, 2009, rehearsing on stage with his back-up singers and dancers.
“That can’t just go by itself,” says Jackson referring to a lighting cue. “I have to cue it.” The light will come on when Jackson points to it. Every move in the show is directed by Jackson on stage with the support of Michael Jackson’s creative partner and director of the stage show Kenny Ortega, who is also the director of the film. In another scene Jackson tells Ortega he will cue the dancers when to react to a scene projected on the stage’s huge screen. Ortega points out that Jackson will have his back to the screen, that he won’t be able to see it. Jackson says, “I’ll just feel it.” When the moment comes, Jackson hits the cue without looking.
“I met Michael Jackson when I was 13 in the cast of Oliver,” says This Is It director Kenny Ortega, who went on to direct many of Jackson’s concert tours. “Michael Jackson and his brothers, The Jackson Five, were touring and performing in the same theater. I remember his graciousness at eight years old.”
Casting the dancers for This Is It feels like a scene straight from A Chorus Line. The stage is packed with incredibly precise auditioning dancers who look impossibly fit. They’ve flown from all over the world for the chance to perform for Michael Jackson.
This Is It is more than the story of Michael Jackson’s last show, it’s the story of the dancers, musicians and singers. Those who work with Jackson appreciate the star’s perfectionism. That comes through not as attitude, but as dedication to his art. Everyone in the show is jazzed to be guided by Jackson and relies upon him to take them to a level that they haven’t been asked to perform before. Jackson, in control of the stage, his team, and his performance, is quietly exacting. When he gives a correction, it’s in his usual soft speaking voice, and he always gently asks that they do their job “with l-o-v-e”.
This Is It was produced by Randy Phillips, Kenny Ortega and Paul Gongaware. The executive producers are John Branca and John McClain. The film is slated to be distributed worldwide by Sony Pictures as a limited two-week engagement. Sony has lost their minds if they think two weeks is enough time for this film. This is the sort of feel-good, toe-tapping, sing-along film that people want to see time after time. It’s going to be huge on the big screen and on DVD.
What’s not in the film is the child sex scandals of Neverland, the money problems, the drug problems, Jackson’s death, or any of the disappointments in Jackson’s life. It’s really a “making of” tribute film, not a documentary in usual sense.
Michael Jackson redefined the music video in 1987 with Thriller, which he’d spent $3 million to make. That video’s success launched the most successful album of all time. Jackson has done it again. This Is It redefines how performers will document their work. A must-see film for anyone who cares about music.
This Is It
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Release Date: October 28, 2009
Rating: PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images
Jeffrey Jolson is Hollywood Today founding editor-in-chief and a RushPRnews partner and contributor since 2006. Jeffrey, of the Al Jolson family, also founded HollywoodReporter.com and Grammy.com. Hollywood Today reporters have written for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, AP, E!, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.
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