A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Between March and June of 2009, months before he died, Michael Jackson prepped for a sold-out, 50-date run of London concerts that was to have catapulted him back onstage. MICHAEL JACKSON'S THIS IS IT captures the King of Pop in rehearsals in the weeks and months leading up to his death, running through his best-loved hits (including "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Thriller," "Man in the Mirror," "Smooth Criminal," and many more), finessing his act, and filming 3-D segments to be screened onstage during his concerts. It's a study of an artist at work, honing his craft in preparation of a big day that would ultimately never come.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Jackson still mesmerizes so many people after all this time. Was it his talent or the mystery of his persona? Or both?
In the film, Jackson seems to have a different demeanor from the way he usually appeared in public. Does this show that he cultivated a certain image? How do you think his enormous fame affected his personal life? Do you consider him a role model?
There's been some backlash connected to the movie. Is it, as some critics have said, exploitative? Or a testament to Jackson's legacy?
- In theaters: October 28, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
- Cast: Michael Jackson
- Director: Kenny Ortega
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some suggestive choreography and scary images
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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