Last Christmas, a friend of the family gave us four tickets for the touring show “Forever Jackson” featuring Michael Jackson impersonator Robin Parsons, because Mrs Craggus has long been a fan of the ‘King Of Pop’. The show’s a lot of fun and Parsons pretty much nails his Jackson impersonation (as long as you don’t look too closely) and while the music and dance entertained me and the missus, as well as the littlest Craggling, it blew Mertmas’ mind.
We’ve since spent a summer dominated by Jackson’s back catalogue, with a specific focus on “Thriller”, so it comes as no surprise that on the eve of the man himself’s birthday, we found ourselves seated on the sofa, about to watch “Moonwalker” for the first time (except for Mrs Craggus, of course).
It promises a ‘movie like no other’ and boy does it deliver on that promise. Part concert movie, part music video compilation from the album “Bad”, part sci-fi action adventure, it’s a surprisingly experimental collection of short films, some of which actually became the music videos for the songs they feature, some gently spoofing his other music videos and one, “Smooth Criminal” greatly expanding on the original music video, making it the centrepiece of a trippy, techno-gangster sci-fi thriller.
As weird, eclectic, idiosyncratic and brilliant as the man himself, it can’t help but provide a window into his fractured love/ hate relationship with his fans and the press, as evidenced by the parody of “Bad” blending into a bizarre live-action/ claymation hybrid chase across the movie lot which eventually segues into “Speed Demon”, replete with its shades of Harvey the Rabbit.
Jackson’s childlike excitement and wonder constantly contrast with his resentment of the tabloid media’s hounding of him, pointedly illustrated in “Leave Me Alone” but it’s in the “Smooth Criminal” segment the film gets really weird. Part Spielbergian ‘wish-upon-a-star’ moppet adventure, part violent drug-crazed gangster turf war, it features Joe Pesci as ‘Mr Big’ a vicious – and possibly alien – crime lord determined to get the children of the world hooked on ‘drugs’. Although famously a lover, not a fighter, Jackson omitted to mention he’s also a laser-shielded mecha and a transformer who turns into a spaceship. I’d love to say it all makes perfect sense in context but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
With his later years dogged by controversy and his untimely death in 2009, it may be difficult for some to separate the art from the artist but the retrospective montage which follows the movie’s opening performance of “Man In The Mirror” underlines just what a phenomenal artist, singer and songwriter Jackson was, right from childhood. It may be that, like the TV series he adored and so memorably guest-starred in, “The Simpsons”, this movie came four or five years too late to capitalise on the very pinnacle of his powers (what price a full-length “Thriller” movie musical?) but there’s still more than enough here to remind you that behind all the tabloid tittle-tattle, eccentricity and conspicuous consumption, there was a truly talented and gifted artist.
Happy Birthday, Michael. Wherever you are.