This new unedited footage tapped by Michael Jackson's team in Neverland, offers a true representation of the controversial TV special "Living with Michael Jackson" of Martin Bashir, very far from the twisted initial broadcast.
Featuring never before seen footage and exclusive interviews with Michael's mother Katherine and siblings Tito and Rebbie, producer David Gest presents a feature length, definitive portrait of his best friend Michael Jackson.
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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