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As Long as We Remember...

November 9, 2009

REVIEW: Michael Jackson, I Never Knew You

Roy Meachum

It was a surprise. Young people were walking around the local movie theatres with pasteboard and plastic festooning their wrists. A guy when asked where he was going responded: “The Michael Jackson movie.”


I didn’t know it was there, on screen.


The suspicion arises that Columbia gave up advance promotion in order to get “This Is It!” up and running the soonest; for all I know there’s a competition of corporations of held-back material from the “King of Pop.” His untimely death certainly endowed the two hours of rehearsals I saw with a preciousness that could be interpreted as fragility. I can’t imagine.


While he was alive everybody knew about the man who spent all those millions and paid them off for the mega-hit “Thriller.” Please forgive my errors about “Jacksononia,” the detailed history of the entertainer who died of a legal-drug overdose earlier this year. In my former ignorance, that was what I sort of expected: after the fantastic rumors and snide scandals, including his facial plastic surgeries – numerous times. Had he lived and opened his career-booster on a London stage this summer, I would have remembered the salacious stuff.


Boy was I wrong.


Precisely because the material consists of the give-and-take of rehearsals, the film offers Michael Jackson as he was – in the profession that consumed most of his 50 years. At the time “normal” children started kindergarten, the youngest brother was put in an act called the Jackson Five. He faced applause and cheering at such an early age they could not be trusted; he kept working to make his material better and better. What “This Is It!” is all about: how very, very hard he invested his whole being into his craft, including his genius.


There is simply no way a person can emerge into reality after seeing the film without sensing audiences are seeing a genuine genius; in the first place you can see the manner his fellow professionals pay respect and attention. That respect cannot be bought. The productions were created for the songs he intended to highlight in the show: I did not find each of them terrific. I was awed at the attention and deference shown for and by their creator. He earned mine.


There are certainly a certain number of people who will buy tickets for this last glimpse of their idol and then some folks will walk away at anything that reeks of Michael Jackson’s curls and loose-as-a-goose body. I’m advising they change their mind and elbow their way into “This Is It!” by any means.


For two hours and one minute, they say, I guarantee everyone in the audience will be fascinated and entertained. And that’s what movies are all about. Aren’t they?



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