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Michael Jackson's This is It


Stars: Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega, Michael Bearden, Travis Payne, Judith Hill, Orianthi Panagaris, Tommy Organ, Mo Pleasure, Stacy Walker, Tony Testa

Director: Kenny Ortega

Like James Dean before him, Michael Jackson’s legendary status as King of Pop has been enhanced by his death which ended his planned comeback with fifty concerts scheduled to run at London’s 02 arena.

Instead fans are offered fascinating footage from some 100 hours of film of the star rehearsing for the 02 season, footage that was, presumably, to remain unseen but which, skilfully compiled by director-choreographer Ortega, now emerges as a satisfying tribute to Jackson’s working methods, showing him to be a near-paranoid stickler for every emphasis and detail, vocal and visual, to be honed into his vision of the end product. Excellent special effects – myriads of marching men fill the screen, Jackson is seamlessly melded into monochrome footage of Rita Hayworth singing (actually dubbed, by Anita Ellis) in Gilda before being pursued by gun-toting Humphrey Bogart and Edward G Robinson – give vivid impressions of what the stage show was intended to look like. Strangely, watching everyone create the staging comes over as more interesting than perhaps the final result might have been.

Despite being painfully thin, almost malnourished in appearance, Jackson exudes energy especially when dancing and as a record of his undoubted star quality, This Is It impresses. Fans, of course, will be ecstatic - they cheered every number at the London premiere screening as if they were celebrating a live show rather than a cunningly-conceived and entertainingly realised tribute to its subject; surprisingly perhaps, it is possible that the film and its music could even convert non-believers. It certainly impresses as a documentary with no other purpose than to showcase Jackson.

Alan Frank

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Oct 2009