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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Retro Review: Moonwalker (1988)

Cast: Michael Jackson, Joe Pesci, Kellie Parker, Sean Lennon, Brandon Quintin Adams
Genre: Anthology 
Number of copies sold: over 800,000 in the U.S (1989)

Plot:  A feature-length adventure that takes us to the moon and back with the most well-known entertainer on the planet

'Compilation of Music Videos In This Music Movie Epic For Die-Hard Jacko Fans Only' 

It has been, what like, over 20 years since I last rewatched Moonwalker. Although the first time I saw it, I was pretty much into the music and the songs, which were the main reason to enjoy this music compilation. 

Back in the mid-1980s, Michael Jackson's popularity soared to new heights with the album, Bad which was flying off the shelves and selling like hot cakes. No doubt he was given the moniker of the 'King of Pop'. By this point, he wanted to further capitalise on its success and give his fans more taste of his work; with that, came Moonwalker. I was around 7 years of age in 1988 and I was inundated with Jacko's songs being played on the radio. He was extremely talented, a terrific dancer and solo artist who was topping the singles and album charts throughout the world. 

Moonwalker is a rather strange offering and follows in the footsteps of Prince's Purple Rain, in respects to it being a musicology film, as well as being more of a cut -&- paste montage of music videos strung together, with little to no linkage or resemblance to one another. I felt as I was watching this again that this is a feature with MJ's performances. I was not tuning into a film - far from it. This is not an actual film, even though there is a strange subplot with 3 kids and Joe Pesci's villain character, with a silly ponytail sticking at the top of his head, for some odd reason. 10 mins into the film, one can sense that this is a vanity project with vignette clips to Jackson's music videos juxtaposed side by side. There is no narration supplementing them of any kind.

The claymation, stop-motion effects scene where the fans go after Michael is frigging weird, which leads up to the Speed Demon sequence with the animated claymation characters that include a bunny rabbit in a Black leather jacket. When Michael removes the bunny costume, the thing comes to life and the two end up in a dance stand-off, which was interesting to watch. 

One of the weirdest videos was the 'Bad' one with kiddie dancers and a kiddie Michael Jackson with fake, drawn-on stubble, moustache. The dancing was really cool to watch, still and they did a fantastic job.

The Smooth Criminal sequence opens up in a fashion that is akin to ET and is very Amblin-ish in its ambience. Even the music here reminds me of ET, and to some extent, 1991's Hook. Some of the sentimentality and schmaltz in this film was milked a little too much and it was irksome. But when it gets to the point where Smooth Criminal is belted out, that is when things get good. Only for the film to get even cornier with Jacko turning into a robot and he starts blasting away the bad guys. 

The thing I enjoyed about Moonwalker by far are the songs and listening to them again, brought smiles to my face. This was during a time where he was making great music. The image quality still holds up well and the choreography is still mightily impressive. Seeing Michael Jackson break out into a moonwalk or that whole entire Smooth Criminal sequence as he infiltrates the club, is cool. By far not just the centrepiece of the whole thing, but the main (and arguably only) reason to watch Moonwalker. Although I enjoyed his rendition of The Beatles 'Come Together', as well.

It's near impossible to separate Michael from this film because his presence is so entrenched throughout it (for better and for worse). In rewatching it, I am sometimes at a wonder as to how anything and everything goes, and that the most offbeat ideas are in Moonwalker. The acting part and when the film tries to be like a film is where it sort of stumbles, and is, therefore, not so effective. 

Final Verdict:

Fans of Jacko will get a lot of enjoyment out of this film, moreso than non-fans of his; it very much depends on which camp you fall into. If you thought he was a genius and a pop music legend, then you'll probably love the heck out of Moonwalker. If, however, your views on him are based on other things than his music, and most of it being on the somewhat negative end of the spectrum, then you will not. 

Piecing together a string of music videos with a thinly-veiled plot and a fantasy-like setting, as stand-alone videos, they stand on their own and can hold more than their own weight. Yet as a film lasting an hour and over 30 mins, I just think that the producers were a little way ahead of themselves. 

As a whole, from a musical entertainment aspect, Moonwalker has more bang for your buck, but insofar as a proper movie with good acting, performances, non-musical moments besides the part where Jacko turns into a robot, it doesn't have much going for it. 


(as a music video compilation) 

(as an actual feature-length movie) 

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