Walking into a packed theatre at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Wednesday is a bit like an out-of-body experience. Arriving half an hour early, and still vying for a decent seat, is not something that happens often at a Brooklyn theatre. But that is exactly what happened to me this afternoon.
Michael Jackson’s This is It opened today and people around the world seem to have responded. The limited theatrical release time frame of two weeks was a genius move on the part of producers–probably a direct idea of director Kenny Ortega, the mastermind behind Disney’s mega trilogy High School Musical, gearing off the premise set by the Hannah Montana: Best of Both Worlds concert film.
The film was not quite a documentary, not quite a concert event on film and not quite as much of a glimpse into Michael Jackson as the marketing announced. What is was, was an experience. It was a moment that Ortega caught on camera and shared with the world. In a way, the film was less about Michael and more about the young creative talents who he hand selected to be part of his This is It tour. The film opens with quick teary-eyed interview spots from the 11 dancers chosen to be the principals for the tour. The dancers are just kids, in their early twenties at best, crying - prior to Michael’s death – simply due to the overwhelming opportunity to dance on stage with the King of Pop. Perhaps the most touching story was of an Australian who had heard of the tour two days prior to the auditions; he bought a plane ticket that day and out of thousands–landed the gig.
Though not adhering to format, the film highlighted the dancers and their enthusiasm for both the tour and Michael himself. Shots of them cheering and waving their arms from the floor while watching Michael sing “Billie Jean” and “Man in the Mirror” brought a reality of that moment for these kids. The film also introduced us to the vocalists and musicians who were set to go on tour as well. Throughout the film, there were quiet moments where one could only focus on these talented performers who had defeated the odds gaining an opportunity to work with Michael Jackson, whose dreams died along with the man.
Through soft moments of the hours of rehearsal footage, we were offered a glimpse of Michael never before shared with the public. His love of the music, his rooted knowledge in the songs and how in depth he was to ensure each detail of the show and performance was perfect. His gentle demeanor and burts of humor along with a dedication towards preserving the environment, added new pieces to the puzzle that decades of stardom and the media created.
The music was a collection of the hits throughout the years, it was a compilation of some of his greatest hits. It was what Michael promised to give the world for his tour, and he delivered–just not in the ideal format. The film is worth watching in theatres if you can. The experience of watching the performances on a larger-than-life screen is the closest one we’ll be able to get to the original plan of the tour. Though, more so, it is the experience of watching this film with a room packed full of fans–the cheering after each song, the laughter at personal moments–which allows you to share in the reality that was Michael Jackson’s impact on the world.
Overall: 3 stars (out of five)