A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Despite concerns from some that the movie is exploitative, when taken on its own, it's a surprisingly tender, disarming view of an artistic genius coming out of hiding. Jackson's talents shine through, as does his famously genteel demeanor. The affection, respect, and esteem that the dancers, musicians, and crew members have for him is palpable.
Positive Role Models
Much has been said of Jackson's supposed dependency on drugs to function and how frail he was near the end of his life -- and he certainly looks it here. But what comes through most in the film is his enormous talent. Also, his gentleness, which he uses to convey his ideas without a bull-in-a-china-shop attitude. The other people featured in the movie (dancers, musicians, etc.) are all enthusiastic, hard workers who feel privileged to be taking part in the concert.
Violence & Scariness
The "Thriller" segments include some potentially scary images (people dressed up like decaying corpses/zombies, actors coming out of buried graves, floaty ghosts, etc.). It's not as intense as it would have been in 3-D (which was the plan for the concert), but young kids could easily be frightened. Another segment includes images of a destroyed rainforest burning and a young girl being threatened by a large tractor-like machine.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some suggestive dancing and plenty of Jackson's signature crotch-grabbing during choreography/dance scenes. Some dancers are scantily clad in a few sequences, but it's mostly for the sake of ease of movement.
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A couple of uses of the word "booty."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this hugely anticipated Michael Jackson concert movie is age-appropriate for King of Pop fans in the older tween range and up. Expect a few of Jackson's standard suggestive dance moves (there's plenty of crotch-grabbing, for instance) and some potentially scary images (especially during a new, over-the-top "Thriller" sequence), but there's no swearing, drinking, smoking, or violence. Although the film chronicles the singer's rehearsals in the weeks and months before his death, the event itself (and the surrounding media circus) isn't specifically mentioned. Directed by High School Musical's Kenny Ortega, it's a compelling and even surprising look at Jackson's final days; any hint of exploitative ghoulishness is quickly dispelled by scenes of a talented performer who was still very much on his game. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
There's been much controversy about this soul-stirring film. Is it a worthy homage, a tasteless exploitation, or something in between? Should it have been made at all? When the King of Pop is first glimpsed onstage in segments shot for a a then-planned behind-the-scenes documentary, he looks frail and emaciated (and it is, to be honest, disturbing). But all of that falls away within minutes as it becomes clear that Jackson, even so close to the end, still had that indefinable thing that made him gloriously, insanely famous: talent, and plenty of it. Sure, he doesn't always sing at full force (except for a song or two); and yes, his dancing isn't as energetic. Jackson alludes to his need to hold back during rehearsals and conserve himself for curtain time (as many entertainers do), which is most likely why he was only performing at 75 percent -- but what a 75 percent it is.
Audiences will never know fully the demons that haunted Jackson off stage, but what's clear from This Is It is that when he was on stage, it was all about the work. Watching him discuss the need to let a particular moment in a song "simmer" speaks volumes about his vision and how he still knew what he wanted out of his act -- and strove tirelessly to get it. Had he been able to pull the tour off, it would've been epic.
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