Nobody likes to be the jerk.
It would be easy to smile and nod and mention the sentimental value of seeing Michael Jackson performing just weeks before the end of his life, and to give "This Is It" a general pass because of the curiosity factor. It would be easy... but it would be dishonest. So I guess I'll be the jerk in this case.
"This Is It" is barely a movie by any definition. If I bought a deluxe collector's edition of a polished, finished Michael Jackson concert, and the extra features on disc two were made up of the footage from this film, then maybe I'd say, "Oh, cool, look at him rehearsing. That's sort of interesting." But this isn't a DVD extra. This is a movie that you're expected to pay full price for in a theater, that's playing on IMAX screens everywhere, that's being touted as a major entertainment event.
And whatever "This Is It" is, it ain't that.
The first and most obvious problem with the film is that Kenny Ortega was simply too close to the subject matter to cut any sort of documentary out of the available footage. I can only imagine how hard it is to sit and watch a collaborator on screen, day after day, while the pain of their death is still fresh, so I'm not going to beat him up. I'll just say that while he may have upheld his responsibility as a friend of Michael's, he utterly fails in his responsibility as a filmmaker. Here you are with this footage, the last recorded live performances by one of the biggest superstars in the world, and you're given the task of making a film out of it. The first thing you need to do is set up interviews to help place that footage in context, and you need to decide what narrative it is that you're going to craft to help make the film into an experience and not just a clips package. Those choices were never made here, and the result is flabby, inert. I took my co-writer Scott with me tonight because he's a huge Michael Jackson fan, and even he was bored by the end of the film.