Director: Kenny Ortega
Cast: Michael Jackson
"It's all for love. L.O.V.E." says the King of Pop mid-rehearsal for his sell-out 50 date concert at the O2. That's right. Love. And money. Milking the masses desperate for a little more MJ, This Is It gives us all a taste of what Michael Jackson was like behind the scenes. Mostly, the taste is sweet. Sickly sweet. Dancers line up to tell the camera how much he changed their lives, sobbing between sugary sentences. "I'm from Australia," says one, before breaking down into tears.
The king of all the suck-ups? Mr High School Musical himself. Just off screen with a megaphone full of compliments, Kenny Ortega offers advice, help but little criticism as rehearsals continue; this is Michael Jackson's gig, and only he can say what he wants from each song. And boy, does he know it. Athletic and energetic, despite his age and impending death, he's picky to the last. Dancing around stage with an eerily thin body, he gives pointers to the band like "let it sizzle". This is a musician in full flight, keen to nail everything just right.
It's a fitting portrait of a man with such talent - cutting together takes with artful editing, This Is it avoids Jacko's personal life and constructs a rough sense of what the concert would have been like. It would have been pretty incredible. Along with his most catchy tunes (in raw, unfinished audio), the making-of style documentary offers an interesting insight into the production process itself; from a CGI army of dancers to trapdoors and flames, it's technically quite fascinating. Best of all is the Smooth Criminal footage, cleverly inserting Michael into 1940s shootouts with Bogart and Cagney.
But the sentiment never stays away for long. Soon enough Earth Song crops up on the set list, complete with cherry-picker and a small girl cradling the world in her arms. It's only a matter of time before he's hovering over the stage with a fan in his face, wafting his wonderful existence around the room. If you can handle the stream of saccharine syrup, This Is It is an enjoyable (if uncontroversial) tribute to the late legend. It can't replace the spectacle of a live show, but it'll certainly make just as much money.
Airbrushed entertainment for diehard fans. But as far as cash-ins go, This Is It is toe-tapping stuff.
- earth song
- kenny ortega
- king of pop
- michael jackson
- smooth criminal