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Michael Jackson documentary glosses over King of Pop’s troubled reign

The Life of an Icon'

When the King of Pop died, people around the world glossed over the blemishes on his reputation and mourned the death of a superstar. Universal Studios followed suit with “Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon.”

The documentary features testimony from its producer and Jackson’s close friend David Gest, Jackson family members, representatives from Motown Records and Motown musicians, among others.

After a brief opening with the 9-1-1 call reporting what would be Jackson’s death, the film spends more than half of its two-and-a-half hours reliving Jackson’s childhood with The Jackson 5.

Bobby Taylor, the man responsible for taking The Jackson 5 to Motown Records, shares his story of meeting a young Michael Jackson and his strict father, Joe Jackson. Taylor, various Motown artists, including members of the Temptations, along with Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine Jackson, brother, Tito Jackson, and his sister, Rebbie Jackson, all portray him as a soft-spoken child who worked hard and nagged producers until they watched what he could do.

The voices of some of Motown’s finest bring life to photos of a young Michael Jackson and show the side that die-hard fans fell in love with. However, the issue of Joe Jackson’s strict parenting and Michael Jackson’s alleged fear of his father is only briefly mentioned and made to look like a minor detail.

Similarly, when the film touches on The Jackson 5 changing labels and leaving their name and Jermaine Jackson behind, any regret or strain on family relationships is left out. Katherine Jackson briefly mentions some family turmoil when Michael Jackson left The Jacksons to pursue a solo career, but no voices from other family members give this any depth.

The second half of the film is spent fleshing out the controversial parts of Michael Jackson’s life: the plastic surgery, the change of his skin color, his alleged addiction to pain killers and the lawsuits.

His family explains away the cosmetic topics, citing low-self esteem and Vitiligo, a skin disease causing a difference in pigmentation, as reasons behind the change in appearance.

The pain killers are of course traced back to an accident during the filming of a Pepsi commercial and are brushed aside as if they are no big deal.

Some prior knowledge of Michael Jackson’s story is beneficial when watching this movie, as sections like this don’t go into as much detail as may be necessary. The same applies when his wives and the start of the lawsuits are covered.

Overall, the film is full of great Motown classic music, and gives life to a child star the world once loved. However, it lacks real depth and doesn’t give an accurate portrayal of both sides. It seems fair to say that being produced by one of Michael Jackson’s closest friends this will appeal to real fans of the star’s life, but won’t really serve to educate about the man whose music changed the industry.


Grade: B-

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