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is this it for Michael Jackson? 

The king of pop doesn't get the concert film he always deserved.

A prelude to "Smooth Criminal" has Michael Jackson edited alongside Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart in clips from Gilda and In a Lonely Place. Coming from anyone else, this would be unwarranted ego-tripping. But no other pop music artist (not Elvis, not Madonna, not The Beatles) ever made as powerful an impression on film images as Jackson did once he became an MTV superstar. It's that history of visual iconography that This Is It should aspire to more often.

It's always been a shame that Jackson hadn't had a concert film on par with Prince's Sign O' the Times. And from the sparse opening rundown of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," with huge musical sections still missing, it's clear that this won't be it. An assembly of performance rehearsals, classic archival footage and heartfelt confessions, This Is It finds High School Musical director Kenny Ortega instead building a monument to Jackson's skill. It's musically impassioned, and at its most interesting, a look at behind-the-scenes showbiz hierarchy (Jackson is demanding, but he never skips a "thank you"). It's Ortega's understanding of Jackson's artistry that's a little shallow. The singing and dancing is unmistakable, but MJ was also set apart by his populist messages of cultural change, social acceptance and racial identity, exemplified in his best long-form videos ("Thriller," "Bad," "Black or White"). His views on the environment expressed here are sincere but not enough. Considering Jackson's film legacy when he was alive, This Is It will only settle for being a touching shrine.

Michael Jackson's This Is It
Rated PG (MPAA) · 121 min. · 2009
Official Site: www.sonypictures.com/movies/michaeljacksonthisisit
Director: Kenny Ortega
Producer: Paul Gongaware, Randy Phillips and Kenny Ortega
Cast: Michael Jackson and Orianthi

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