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Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall (2016)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | 24 January 2016 (USA)
A look at the life of the late pop star Michael Jackson from his early days at Motown Records to the release of his hit 1979 album, Off the Wall.


Spike Lee


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Jackson ... Himself (archive footage)
Jackson 5 ... Themselves (archive footage)
Berry Gordy ... Himself
Suzanne De Passe ... Herself
Katherine Jackson ... Herself
Valerie Simpson Valerie Simpson ... Herself
Steven Manning Steven Manning ... Himself
Joe Jackson ... Himself
Marlon Jackson ... Himself
Jackie Jackson ... Himself
Joe Vogel Joe Vogel ... Himself
Scott Osborn Scott Osborn ... Himself, TV show host (archive footage)
Lee Daniels ... Himself
Sammy Davis Jr. ... Himself (archive footage)
Leon Huff Leon Huff ... Himself


A look at the life of the late pop star Michael Jackson from his early days at Motown Records to the release of his hit 1979 album, Off the Wall.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

24 January 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Michael Jackson - de unge år See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?

Crazy Credits

John Branca is listed in closing credits twice in a row. See more »


References Sparkle (1976) See more »


Ease On Down The Road
Written by Charlie Smalls
Performed by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson
See more »

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User Reviews

Whitewashed wall
20 March 2016 | by LejinkSee all my reviews

If you believe everyone who does their piece to camera in this fawning adulatory documentary by Spike Lee, then "Off The Wall" is the greatest piece of music ever created in the history of western music. Well, sorry Spike, but, this just in, it isn't, at least not in my opinion. Jackson himself only wrote two and a half (one was a co-write) songs on the record and the rest are a mixture of Rod Temperton originals and errr... off the wall cover versions of songs of very varied quality, I mean Paul McCartney's saccharine "Girlfriend", Carole Bayer Sager's vacuous "It's The Falling In Love" and that god-awful ballad "She's Out Of My Life", by whoever wrote it, seriously, who even plays these tracks today.

The film purports to take us from Jackson's glory Motown days to the release of this supposedly epochal album, but ends up by giving us an extended track-by-track run-through of "Off The Wall" like an episode of "Classic Albums". I did enjoy seeing some unseen footage of various Jackson interviews but these are swamped by a host of uncritical, cringeworthy comments by a variety of participants, many of whom I either didn't know or whose relevance to MJ, I couldn't comprehend. Cobey Bryant, I understand, is a basketball player but not someone whose opinion on music I'd care to hear. For sheer sore-knees sycophancy however, someone called Rosie Perez certainly takes first prize. For some strange reason, David Byrne, ex of the new-wave band Talking Heads, gets to say a few rather distracted words along with archive interviews with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr and Gene Kelly. Yet nowhere are there interviews with the likes of Temperton, Quincy Jones (other than on archive), McCartney or even Diana Ross. It's all very odd and disjointed indeed.

The movie also glosses over the car-crash that was his acting debut "The Wiz" and also hasn't even got the guts to call out the duff note at the end of the afore-mentioned "She's Out Of My Life". It goes without saying too that there's no mention of his difficult relationship with his typically pushy show-biz father Joe, his own eccentric lifestyle, health problems or his future travails in the courtroom.

There's some exciting footage of a Jackson family concert circa 1981 showing him for the great performer he undoubtedly was but it's milked for song after song until its effect is diluted. But when I'm later told that a promo video of "Rock With You" is compelling viewing by the faithful admirers when all it is, is Michael miming in a spangly suit, then I guess I'm in the wrong crowd. And as for that awful rap performed again by someone I don't know over the end titles, the least said the better.

Listen, I'm a fan of Michael Jackson and when he was good he was utterly brilliant, as a singer, writer and performer. But really there's only one outstanding song on the "Off The Wall" album and that's his own "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" with maybe three goodish ones backing it up "Rock With You", Stevie Wonder's "I Can't Help It" and the title track. I would question the premise of the timeline represented by this documentary (the Motown years must be worth a film of their own, surely) and seriously question its complete lack of anything approaching critical analysis both of Michael Jackson and his music.

Oh and by the way, the Jacksons "Triumph" album, made just after this, to which he contributed far more musically, is much superior to "Off The Wall" and any other solo album MJ ever made. If this is the fuss Lee makes over the fair-to-middling "Off The Wall", I fear for the treatment "Thriller" will get, although I might laugh at the same superfans here admitting that it beats its unbeatable predecessor.

Meanwhile this massively biased feature is for devoted Jackson fans only.

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