Can’t Beat It

1 Nov

For much of the past decade and a half, Michael Jackson the troubled man overshadowed Michael Jackson the talented performer.

And it was a sad statement that it took Jackson’s death this past June for folks to remember just how great a performer he was and to put the scandal and outrageousness of his off-stage life in the background.

Jackson tried to make that shift happen while he was still alive; his “This Is It” series of concerts in London were meant as a last-ditch effort to remind people why they came to love him in the first place. Alas, those concerts never happened and the world would be denied the chance to see what Jackson had in store.

At least, that’s what it seemed would be the case. Thankfully, Jackson was documenting the rehearsal process for the concerts, amassing more than 100 hours of footage for his own personal use.

It’s that footage that forms the basis of This Is It, a two-hour look behind the scenes of a Jackson concert that never was. The film provides a fitting tribute and final chapter for Jackson, and it’s a celebratory, fun, and insightful look at a side of Jackson that few outside his inner circle got to see.

In the film, we get to see Jackson, a notorious perfectionist, as a more vulnerable, imperfect performer. He doesn’t rehearse by singing at full strength (so he can conserve his voice), and in the case of a couple songs, he skips over a few lyrics. He rushes dance moves, he makes his musicians stop and start again, and he pushes for more from everyone around him.

No doubt Jackson would never have allowed this footage to see the light of day if he were still alive, but it makes a strong case that the man was, indeed, human. (Of course, even when he was performing at half-strength, Jackson still impressed.)

Other than Jackson himself, the star of this movie is definitely the music. From “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” to “Human Nature” to “Smooth Criminal” to “Man in the Mirror,” and everything else, this is basically a greatest-hits compilation brought to vibrant life.

Jackson may try not to push himself, but on songs like “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” for example, even he can’t resist the power of the music and he gives in to it, naturally. Sitting in the movie theater, you, too, will be hard-pressed not to tap your feet, bob your head, or sing along.

And when the dancers and others on the floor get their own private show as Michael sings “I’ll Be There,” “Billie Jean,” and other solos, you’ll be beyond envious that they got such an opportunity to see the performance up close and in such an “intimate” setting.

Yes, there’s a fair amount of fawning over Jackson by nearly everyone in the ensemble (those personal home videos were going to be quite the ego boost), but it only adds to the tribute feel of the film. And in fact, it’s the only thing that comes close to overdoing it in this otherwise very respectful and not exploitive look at Jackson and his creative process.

Like Jackson’s life, the film ends too soon. After feeling so good for the two hours, all of a sudden This Is It comes to a close and you instantly feel sad about what was lost. But as the film says, Michael’s music and his love will live forever. This film helps to restore that legacy.

If you’re even the slightest fan, you can’t miss This Is It. Don’t wait for the DVD. Michael was bigger than life, and he deserves to be seen as such on a big screen.

I’m giving the film an A–.

2 Responses to “Can’t Beat It”


  1. You’re Supposed to Be Singing | Martin's Musings - June 28, 2013

    […] Despite being featured on a national TV show, and singing with Michael Jackson in the movie This Is It, it looks like Hill still has a long way to go before she’s a […]

  2. 20 Feet from Stardom: Movie Review | Popblerd!! - June 29, 2013

    […] Despite being featured on a national TV show, and singing with Michael Jackson in the movie This Is It, it looks like Hill still has a long way to go before she’s a […]

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