"This is it," Michael Jackson told the world when he announced a series of comeback concerts in London that were supposed to take place this past summer. Of course, the superstar died in June, and so did the shows. But now his fans can get a glimpse of what might have been in the documentary "Michael Jackson's This Is It," opening today. It is culled from footage shot during rehearsals in Los Angeles for the shows. Here's what critics are saying about the film:
What is left is this extraordinary documentary, nothing at all like what I was expecting to see. Here is not a sick and drugged man forcing himself through grueling rehearsals, but a spirit embodied by music. Michael Jackson was something else... The result is one of the most revealing music documentaries I've seen.
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
There’s an incredible amount to enjoy here, and the star’s fans will be in rapture. Though Jackson looks painfully thin at times, his vocal prowess and dancing ability seem to have scarcely ebbed at all in the decade he spent offstage... Yet there’s likely a reason that so little of this side of Jackson was ever seen previously; the more one observes his anxiety-riddled drive to present a flawless performance, the more obvious it seems that he would never have wanted audiences to see it in such a rough state. Debating a deceased artist’s wishes is always sketchy territory, however, and "This Is It" is a classy film that only affirms the man’s talent.
-- Andrew Barker, Variety
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Neither a concert film nor a documentary but a ghoulish “event” offered just in time for Halloween, “This is It” is sadly — and reprehensively, if you ask me — the movie equivalent to the National Enquirer's infamous post-mortem shot of Elvis Presley. Cynically billed as a tribute to Michael Jackson and a gift to his fans, this much-hyped rip-off resurrects the dying former King of Pop in a likely successful bid by the promoters of his abortive final concert tour, his relatives and his longtime enablers at Sony to cash in on Jackson’s post-mortem surge in popularity... I feel fairly confident that a perfectionist like Jackson would never want to be remembered by a shoddy piece of exploitation like “This Is It.”
-- Lou Lumenick, New York Post
The Jackson who shook off his mortal coil on June 25 wasn't the vibrant young performer who regularly electrified stadiums, and hadn't been for many years. But if "This Is It" doesn't miraculously restore the middle-aged Jackson to his past glory, it at least offers glimpses of his bygone greatness, and poignant suggestions of what might have been... The skeletal frame and mutilated facial features should dissuade anyone inclined to buy father Joe Jackson's claim, reported earlier this week and quickly dismissed by a Sony rep, that a body double was used for the bulk of the film.
-- Elysa Gardner, USA Today
Looks like the world has missed one helluva concert. Whatever cynicism one might harbor about this Hail Mary piece of cinema -- which can be called the first concert rehearsal movie ever -- what this strange yet strangely beguiling film does is capture one of pop culture's great entertainers in the feverish grips of pure creativity... The audience at the Nokia premiere didn't seem to know how to react to rehearsal footage. They giggled nervously at missed cues and interruptions. To be clear: No one should expect a concert film. Jackson clearly is conserving his energy, holding back on dance moves and vocal intensity. He is searching for his concert, the way a sculptor chisels away at marble to discover a statue.
-- Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter