This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Moonwalker.”
The Movie: “Moonwalker”
Starring: Michael Jackson, Joe Pesci, Sean Lennon
Director: Jerry Kramer, Jim Blashfield and Colin Chilvers
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Anthology movie by, and starring, Michael Jackson in his prime, combining a number of music videos from his bestselling “Bad” album with a fantasy tale of Michael’s confrontation with a ruthless drug dealer known as Mr. Big
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: n/a
Brown: We didn’t get through one review in 2018 without something going terribly wrong.
See, after our Good, Bad and Ugly of 2017, I decided that the first movie us Joes would tackle in 2018 would be “Rocky V.”
Amazon Prime and Hulu took it away from streaming the movie does not exist.
See, there’s this idea that a movie called “Rocky V” exists. Something to do with a Don King-like promoter, Rocky suffering from traumatic brain damage from never learning how to block in a damn fight and some chump named Tommy “The Machine” Gun.
But I remember The Ringer’s Bill Simmons saying “Rocky V” never, ever, ever happened. And I believe him. Rocky Balboa went from fighting the Russian in “Rocky IV” to a boxer named Mason Dixon in “Rocky Balboa.” NOTHING else happened between then.
So, we can’t watch a ghost. But we can watch a moonwalker. So, Michael Jackson comes in to save the day.
Is this an actual movie? No, not really. It’s a bunch of music videos with a a weird-ass story that loosely ties the last hour together. But, Michael does turn into a robot. Plus, Joe Pesci is a bad guy.
Also, this “movie” got a video game that I played a lot on the Sega Genesis at my childhood friend Bobby’s house.
So Froemming, what was your initial take on The King of Pop fighting The War on Drugs?
Froemming: Nothing like ringing in the new year with a film that has no plot, a lot of really strange bits but at least some very good music. I started watching this while on my dinner break and I realized “holy (REDACTED), how are we going to review a film that has no plot?”
Well, it’s 2018, and if America is moving forward with a rambling, baffling, nonsensical place in the world, well the JOE-DOWN can too!
Now, why don’t you get this started while I find out if Annie is OK.
HEY Annie, are you okay, you okay, you okay, Annie?
Brown: First thing, the first 30 minutes of this movie is basically a rundown of MJ’s career up to “Bad.” We see him performing in front of what I imagine was 100,000 people, which is always a cool visual, regardless of the artist. I shouldn’t be able to find anything to make fun of while Jackson performs a live version of “Man in the Mirror,” but I found two things.
One, whole lot of honkeys in the crowd for this one.
Second, I watch these movies with closed caption, and it bothered me that Amazon Prime says “Come on” when MJ sings. The more accurate portrayal is “Cha-Mahn.”
Froemming: At this stage in his career, I’d imagine the Man in the Mirror had a lot of questions for Michael. Like, what’s with the Sgt. Pepper’s costume? You have a (REDACTED) monkey named BUBBLES?
Now, this whole intro reminds us of why Michael Jackson was the King of the Damn World in the 1980s and early 1990s: From the Jackson 5 to “Bad,” everything he did was gold. His music videos were prime-time television events when I was growing up. It is easy to be cynical looking at his career at this time through the lens of 2018, but damn, these songs still are amazing.
Also, hearing these songs reminds me of the time we went out for your birthday and you go so drunk that you danced like BOTH Michael Jackson and Ric Flair.
Brown: Oh, at our friend Joey’s bachelor party, I was strutting like Ric Flair outside the hotel bar. When I came back, the owner saw me and explicitly told me I was not to do that inside.
Now, we’re just getting the highlights from Jackson’s career, and you’re right, you can’t knock how good the man was in his prime before his personal life sullied Jackson’s career.
Some of this introspective was terrifying to look at. This is a common thing during the start of this “movie” where the Jackson 5 is made out of clay, California Raisin-style. And it is the stuff of nightmares.
There’s also parts where it looks like a music video/career introspective that was designed with Microsoft Clip Art, circa 1996.
While we’re talking about MJ’s career, who the (REDACTED) makes a romantic ballad about a rat named Ben? Who thought that was an acceptable idea? That still blows my mind.
And in the “Way You Make Me Feel” video, we have MJ basically stalking a woman in an alley before him and his (assuming) homeless friends surround her and do a dance? No. The only dance any of those gentlemen would be doing is writhing on the ground. After this woman nails them in the face with pepper spray.
Now, we get to “Bad.” Walk us through this one, Froemming.
Froemming: The segment is called “Badder.” And this was when I could not escape what I know now with what I was seeing. It is a shot-for-shot remake of the “Bad” video, but with little kids.
It’s like Patton Oswalt’s bit on George Lucas and the prequels (NSFW): You like Darth Vader? Here he is, as a LITTLE KID!
So we get that, but with a Michael Jackson song that starts out with “Your butt is mine…” coming from a child’s mouth.
I almost just shut it off here and called a mulligan. But we are professionals, so Brown, how did you feel at this moment?
Brown: Uncomfortable. This is where 30 years of hindsight really does this movie no favors. I need something to take my mind off this line.
There’s one point where the kids rip up a poster of MJ that says “Wanted: for questioning.” … Make your own jokes here, folks.
A couple things that bear mentioning. Was it as off-putting to you as it was to me to see these kids with facial hair painted on their face?
And, there was a part of me that was laughing because I thought (see: hoped) the gang from this music video would come face-to-face with the gang from Weird Al’s “Fat” video.
Froemming: I’m glad you brought up the Weird Al song, because I wrote in my notes “I’d rather be watching ‘Fat.’” And yes, just about everything about Michael Jackson around this time began to be off-putting.
But this leads into (with a jab at Prince, no less) a claymation video for “Speed Demon” that has a cameo from Domino’s Pizza mascot the Noid! Even that thing got a video game back in the day.
Brown: I know! When my babysitter came over, she’d bring that game over and I’d play it. A lot. In the NES times, Capcom knew how to make chicken salad out of chicken (REDACTED).
Froemming: The ‘80s were a weird time, man.
This segment has Jackson walking out of a big studio and getting chased by weird, claymation entities that, to be honest, are haunting. Forget horror movies, Brown, just watch these creepy looking (REDACTED).
Brown: Look, if Michael Jackson’s reality was every human being looking like one of those terrifying puppets from the Genesis “Land of Confusion” music video, I totally understand why he was such a messed-up recluse later in his life.
Now, this part shows a recurring part of “Moonwalker”: Michael Jackson has super powers.
His first power: The ability to transform himself into a claymation rabbit. That dresses and has hair like MJ.
As a bunny alone, he has the ability to turn a bicycle into a motorcyle into a jet ski into a jetpack in mere seconds. He can also transform himself from a rabbit to Pee-Wee Herman because reasons.
Then at the end of this segment, after he removes the bunny suit, the rabbit (named Spike) comes to life and challenges MJ to a dance-off. So, the lesson here is this: MJ would not give you an autograph, but if you challenge him to a dancing duel, he is obligated to accept.
If that’s the case, Michael Jackson’s life was a nightmare.
Froemming: This sums up the look on my face watching this thing.
Also, have we become the Beavis and Butthead of film reviews?
Brown: I’d like to believe we’re smarter than Beavis and Butthead. I would totally wear a Metallica shirt when we did reviews, though.
Froemming: Anyway, the next piece is a video for “Leave Me Alone,” a song and video that criticizes the media’s obsession with a man who:
- Made his house into an amusement park.
- Owned a monkey.
- Hung around with children.
- Sort of went out of his way to be an weirdo.
- Married Elvis’ daughter.
- Dressed like a cross between royalty and a biker gang.
- Apparently tried to buy the Elephant Man’s bones in 1987, but was denied.
Other than that, I mean, what was the big fuss?
Brown: I did pop when Bubbles showed up in the music video. He’s a Prince fan, apparently, so I have a new appreciation for Bubbles.
Now finally, after 37 minutes (!!), we start getting our kind of plot. We see some Dickensian orphans on top of a roof looking down at “Mitchell’s Music.” But Mitchell is MICHAEL, walking out of the building like he’s about to hunt down a speakeasy.
That is, until he gets gunned down by a bunch of faceless, well-armed Nazis drug-lord soldiers of Mr. Big (Pesci).
Froemming: Fun fact: One of the children in this is the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon. This is interesting because later, Michael does a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” It’s…not a very good cover.
So Joe Pesci, looking like he accidentally wandered off the set of the “Super Mario Bros.” movie into this one, is after Michael after MJ and the kids learn that Mr. Big is selling drugs…via spiders? I was lost at this moment.
Brown: Mr. Big’s characteristics were the following:
- Likes spiders and peanuts
- Has the hair of a demented Alfalfa from “Little Rascals.”
Really a fleshed-out, three-dimensional character.
Froemming: He also called Jackson “cockroach” a lot in this. Like he was Scarface or something.
Brown: The fact that Joe Pesci was in this movie for over 30 minutes and didn’t utter the F-word is a true testament to the discipline Pesci has. I’m used to him in “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” after all.
One thing that bugged me (pun intended) is how they come across Mr. Big’s drug lair. So, Katie’s dog goes missing and they come across a cave that is coated in cobwebs. Like, you could drown in them. But, as Katie exclaims, “I don’t like spiders.”
If you don’t like spiders, don’t wander into the cave that is caked in cobwebs! It’s something so simple, and yet she doesn’t do it. She deserved to have a spider crawl on her and alert Mr. Big to their presence.
Froemming: I want to mention that Pesci is also wearing heels in this movie, so he is heightening like in “Seinfeld.”
Well, we get a chase and whatnot, and we see Jackson’s got another amazing power: The ability to transform into a car a drive off to a speakeasy, where we get what feels like an hour-long version of “Smooth Criminal.”
Brown: I wrote in my notes that MJ is the Werecar from “Futurama.”
Froemming: Look, “Smooth Criminal” is a great song. We get some amazing dance routines in this. But it just runs way too long. I get it. You are amazing dancers. But I don’t need 45 minutes of it.
Brown: As a song, “Smooth Criminal” makes no sense. The lyrics are about how Annie was struck down and it was her doom. And then you ask if Annie is OK?
Umm, if she’s doomed, that kind of implies death. So, no, I imagine Annie is NOT OK.
And in the context of this movie, this whole sequence is moronic. You’ve spent like 10 minutes running from Mr. Big and his gunmen. You are pretty much a fugitive. You shouldn’t draw attention to yourself.
But what does MJ and his bopper friends do? Have a loud-ass dance party with music you can surely hear a mile away. And when the soldiers surround the building, MJ fires off a tommy gun.
MJ knows what makes a hit song, but he sure as (REDACTED) doesn’t know how stealth works.
Froemming: And we get to another troubling part in this movie. Mr. Big has kidnapped the little girl and MJ tries to save her. Before he does, Joe Pesci just starts smacking the (REDACTED) out of this little girl. That…that sort of came from left field.
Brown: We are an hour into a movie with Joe Pesci. Someone was going to get physically assaulted. I don’t like that it was a child, and we don’t condone child violence in the JOE-DOWN. Considering your villain, it was a matter of time.
Froemming: Instead of turning into a robot, it would have been more satisfying if Michael beat Mr. Big to death with a baseball bat like in “Casino.”
Also, knowing now Michael was abused as a child, this part makes some sense in that he wants to protect an innocent kid, but I still found it disturbing.
Brown: It’s messed up, for sure. And it gives Michael Jackson the anger to reach his ultimate form: A robot that kind of looks like Lionel Richie.
Froemming: It looks like the Lionel Richie bust in the “Hello” video. You know, made by a blind woman.
Brown: Get out of my brain, Froemming.
So, things escalate quickly. After robo-MJ blocks the bullets of Mr. Big’s army, he shoots missiles that look and react like Roman candles.
And then, it gets oddly violent when robo-MJ lets out of his screams that blows up army men like Michael was the Fist of the North Star.
All that’s left is Mr. Big, who runs away, so robo-MJ turns into a spaceship and starts to fly away. His home planet needs him.
Froemming: Unlike Poochie from “The Simpsons,” Michael didn’t die on his way back to his home planet. Because after the little girl cries and tells off the son of John (REDACTED) Lennon like he was the son of Ringo, Jackson returns to the children, laughing and ignoring the fact he just exploded in space like a third Death Star.
Brown: And how does MJ reward his (assuming) orphan friends? Why, follow him into a basement where he will… perform The Beatles’ “Come Together” while they just stand to the side with glow sticks.
When the credits rolled and it said “Based on a story by Michael Jackson,” a lot of things made sense.
I think that’s all we have to say on a non-movie. Let’s put on our claymation rabbit heads and speed off to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Sure. It’s not a movie, but you could do worse than listening to 90-ish minutes of some of the best pop music this world has produced. Believe me, the music will be the only thing that makes sense.
Froemming: You know what? I say sure. The music is fantastic. The videos are weird. It is a fun watch. This is pretty much the last of Golden Era Jackson, because shortly after this his career became the (REDACTED) Storm Era Jackson.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: