Michael Jackson documentary a little wishy-washy but riveting viewing just the same

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When a biographic documentary about one of the world’s greatest icons is missing the key ingredients of his solo artistry, one’s got to consider the project a little suspect. Perhaps Sony Music have their own doco planned and are holding on to all the quality music Michael Jackson released from the late 1970s onwards, but it would have lent more credibility to this film if some kind of deal were come to where at least a snippet of ‘Thriller’ was included instead of, say, ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’ (of which Michael only lends a bit of backing vocal).

Still, ‘Michael Jackson: The Life Of An Icon’ is imperative viewing for fans and intriguing stuff for pop cultural enthusiasts at large. At least the lengthy production is peppered with interviews by members of the Jackson family who mattered to Michael most as he was growing up: his mother Katherine; sister Rebbie; brother Tito; and childhood friend (and producer of the documentary) David Gest.

Says Katherine Jackson: “[This] is a truly remarkable film that captures the true character, wit and sensitivity of my son [that] takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that will bring people to tears.”

This reviewer didn’t find it too tear-jerking, but there was a certain rollercoaster element to its narrative, throwing the viewer into the 911 emergency scenario when Michael was discovered dead on that fateful day of June 2009, then tracking back through his early childhood years, commentary on his stern father Joe, his break with his brothers in the Jackson Five, and first-time encounters with big-name stars like Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves, Jimmy Ruffin and Peabo Bryson. Indeed it seems all these divas and big boys of soul have only wonderful things to say about Michael, and whenever any touchy subjects come up like the child molestation trial and his haphazard marriages, the vox vibe is an overly protective one.

That said, a generous amount of time is dedicated to the pitfalls of what it was to be Michael Jackson, so much so that in the end the documentary reads more like a sad obituary than the true celebration of an icon. Again, though, it makes for fairly gripping viewing. Kind of wish Janet had a say, though. And how wonderful would it have been to hear more from Latoyah?

‘Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon’ is out now on DVD and Blu-ray through Universal.