Friday, April 19, 2024

Spike Lee Film on ABC Spikes Michael Jackson “Bad” Box Into Top 40


UPDATE: The Spike Lee film on ABC last night has pushed the “Bad25” boxed set up to number 37 on

Earlier: The Spike Lee documentary on Michael Jackson, “Bad 25,” aired Thursday night on ABC. For some reason, I could never get anyone to send me a review DVD, so I waited and DVR’d it in real time. “Bad25” the doc is pretty much a sales vehicle for the “Bad25” boxed set of four discs–the original album, the outtake demos, a Wembley Arena concert–that is worth buying as one package.

Indeed, last night’s showing sent “Bad25” the boxed set up to number 189 on, so it was a success. Spike Lee makes excellent documentaries, so it’s no surprise that he’s turned the making of “Bad,” Michael’s followup album to “Thriller,” into a good yarn. He weaves in some amazing clips of Michael performing on the “Bad” tour, and we get to see the real unfettered genius — dancing, singing, composing–that was Michael before the 90s began and his life fell apart in an almost non stop fast forward of catastrophes.

No effort is made to examine what happened after “Bad” and its tour. One thing that happened was Michael’s capricious dismissal of Frank DiLeo, the manager who steered him through the 80s and his great successes. DiLeo was starting to voice disagreement with Jackson about the direction of his life, and Michael–who in Spike Lee’s movie comes off as an enchanted child–showed off his willfulness and fired him. Almost no mention of DiLeo is made in the Spike Lee film, although he gets a nice thank you on the boxed set. If, if, if…If DiLeo had remained, maybe Michael would not have spent money wildly and indulged fantasies that became his undoing. We’ll never know. But after that, no ever said ‘no’ again, and if they did, they were gone.

A lot of other people are noticeably absent from the Lee film, but Spike keeps it on the music. And in that it’s only good. Just the full length clips of Michael, live, performing “Man in the Mirror” (which he didn’t write) and “Another Part of Me,” are worth the whole movie. Also, Spike does reference the various influences Jackson had from Fred Astaire and old black and white movies. Like Madonna, Michael Jackson was proficient in processing what came before him and re-imagining it for a new generation.

Some things are said in this movie and left unexamined, including observations about Michael’s image with women needing change, his insistence on using a high little boy’s voice instead of his own deep register, and his being “too shy” to kiss the hot girl at the end of a video. These things just hang in the air. There were a few other things I found odd, or funny, but they’re irrelevant right now. The main purpose of “Bad25,” besides generating income, is to appreciate Michael Jackson’s art. Judged just for that, Spike Lee did a great job.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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