(Smooth) Criminally Neglected: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (1988)

Ms. Kisner reviews Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. 

Are you a rabbit or a donkey? I can't tell.
Either way, you're sexy as hell. 
The '80s were a weird and wonderful time for pop culture. Without the internet around to expose all of their dirty laundry, celebrities enjoyed almost mythical status among the unwashed masses. Out of all the famous people in the eighties, musician Michael Jackson was arguably the most popular of them all. Everyone loved him and his music and it seemed he could do no wrong. Of course, we all remember how that spell was broken in the nineties with the allegations of child abuse, but for awhile Jackson occupied a magical place in the collective consciousness of America.

His elf-like visage permeated every aspect of our culture: records, television, commercials, clothes, toys, bed spreads--you name it, they slapped his face on it. It was inevitable that eventually they would make a movie starring Jackson in the main role. However, since this was the eighties, they ended up making the most over-the-top and insane cinema oddity you can imagine. That movie was simply known as Moonwalker. If you haven't seen this film nothing can prepare you for how ridiculous and self-indulgent it truly is.

Styx wrote a song about me. 
Moonwalker is an anthology of sorts with the first half being comprised of Jackson's live musical performances and snippets of his various music videos over the years.  The retrospective covers his time with The Jackson Five all the way up to his album Bad.  It's edited together quite well and is a great watch for any fans of his music. All of the different time periods flow seamlessly into each other and the visual effects are clever. There is a parody video of Bad done with little kids that is super fun as well. After this the movie starts to get really...weird.

Some of you younger folk won't remember this, but back in the day we didn't have any of that new fangled CGI for our films. We had Claymation, and by God we liked it! And so, Moonwalker has an entire random segment with Michael Jackson being chased around by Claymation bad guys at which point he turns into a Claymation rabbit and rides around on a motorcycle. I am not making this up, this is a real thing that happens, and it's awesome. There is absolutely zero reason for any of this to occur and no explanation is given at any point. That's how Moonwalker rolls--you're just along for the ride.

This floor is leaning. I said.
This floor is leaning. 

While most people haven't heard of the film Moonwalker, they are usually familiar with the music video for Smooth Criminal (and the iconic "lean" dance move). That video originated from this film and has hands down some of the best dance choreography ever committed to celluloid. It's a twenty minute long sequence and every single movement made by either Jackson himself or any other performer is with the beat of the song. Even extras in the background are doing things on beat--it's incredible to watch. Not to mention Jackson was one of the greatest dancers to ever live and absolutely tears it up during this musical interlude. This sequence alone is worth searching the film out to experience. 

We aren't done yet, because if you are a giant robot fan then Moonwalker has some sights to show you as well. Jackson has to battle an evil drug lord named Mr. Big (Joe Pesci) and because it's the eighties he TURNS INTO A FREAKING ROBOT and fights the bad guys with missiles and his scream attack that shatters things. Then he turns into a spaceship and flies away. 

Whenever I try to explain this movie to people they think I am making this shit up. Things like this are why the '80d were one of the greatest decades ever. This entire film is like a surreal acid trip and it's so damn wacky that you can't help but love it. It makes no sense and the acting is terrible for the most part, but the special effects still look pretty cool by today's standards.  If you are fan of either Michael Jackson or crazy B movies then it's worth your time to try to find this film. Due to licensing issues, it has never been released officially in the U.S. but there is a release in the UK that you can import.  Side note: there was also a video game version of the film released for Sega Genesis that is hilarious to play.

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-Michelle Kisner