The human body, as simple machine, can multiply the force, or it can multiply the distance, but it cannot do both simultaneously. We know that the force of music and dance was Michael Jackson or MJ, as his directors and sound men often call him during rehearsals, but sadly not even the ginormous persona of MJ could multiply the distance by adding years to his short life or meat to the meager movie This Is It.
If This Is It was thrown together to help Michael multiply his short distance, then it falls faster than a shooting star — no, this is not it, this is not the vehicle that will take Jackson fans through time. It's shameless. We've been had by director Kenny Ortega with this brilliant fake film. This Is It is not a movie, it is not a documentary. It is raw rehearsal footage — you've been warned. There is no there there. We see Michael wear pumpkin-orange spandex with a teal T-shirt and a silver lame jacket and look damn good wearing it. He is popsicle-stick thin to be sure, but mostly in those damn neon-orange pants. He wears them often since 800 hours (and many days) of rehearsal footage are gleaned and brushed off to create this 111-minute "documentary." Thus we are treated to many outfit and costume changes for Michael but never get to see even one full dress rehearsal of the planned concert!
Michael is on stage. We know it is his face, presence, and voice. He is the star — we get it. But the audience would have a better chance of catching a glimpse of an actual celestial body by gazing into the night sky instead of trying to pick out the "star" right before their eyes. Because with this film we have no close-up chance of catching sight of who this man (who often morphs into a woman before our eyes) is. It is not the birth of a star. It is not even the death of a star. Why? because the fans are not invited into the inner circle. They are not called upon to mourn or witness the reaction of those who knew him best in his last days.There is no mention of his death or his fragility, no portrait of his soul is seen. This could have been remedied with time — time taken to interview MJ lovers, family, fans, dancers, and musicians. Instead Ortega cherry picks a few pieces of hard fruit, boxes them, and presents it as finished homage to Michael Jackson. For the fans? I don't think so.
No hard-core questions are asked nor answered. There are no superficial or in-depth interviews; no MJ looking worn or haggard; no behind-the-scenes gossip or glitches. What is it, really? It is mostly over-the-top technology. Slam, jam, and thank-you-ma'am struts across the stage and we are left wanting more of something — anything. Instead Mr.Tech-Savvy is star and Michael Jackson is a pitiful afterthought. I think he would not be pleased with this final production.
One nice surprise — his voice and his most famous, most familiar songs were planned for the 50 concerts, with the addition of a couple of new numbers. The first half of the film ends with "Thriller." MJ sings, reinvents, and adds plenty to his already fabulous "Thriller." But that is not enough to save this film. Yes, for one brief shining moment Michael graces the big screen as a 1930s gangster (for "Smooth Criminal") and fan of Rita Hayworth — he is in the front row where he catches her glove. And we catch a glimpse of a man who loves classy dames and who looks like a movie star. We see Michael push through virtual glass, with much technology on display.
However, This Is It is mostly a missed opportunity. And as such, could have been sold to television. Better yet, a Number Ones CD could have accompanied the ticket purchased, affixed with a caveat that reads: "Go home and listen to this instead." Sing in the shower and shake your booty, because there is no razzle-dazzle here. This Is It is all about movie-goers tip-toeing over a dying star.