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Director Nelson's George Thriller 40 plays it safe but still delivers some jewels

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Legendary author, journalist, and filmmaker Nelson George's latest project takes audiences back to the early eighties in Michael Jackson's Thriller 40. The 90-minute documentary delves into the music world and explores the impact of the accompanying elaborate videos. It features commentary from various notable figures, including the renowned ballerina Misty Copeland, musician Maxwell Usher, Grammy award-winning artist Mary J. Blige, acclaimed producer Mark Ronson, and famous songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

Additionally, the documentary includes insights from Brooke Shields, who was once a close companion of the late Michael Jackson, the king of pop. The film pays tribute to the lasting influence of Jackson's music, examining how it has impacted popular culture and inspired generations of artists. Through interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and expert analysis, the documentary provides a comprehensive look at the legacy of one of the most influential musicians of all time.

It is worth noting that director Nelson George is well acquainted with the King of Pop, as he has previously authored "Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson." Thriller 40 starts by letting the audience know where Jackson was mentally after failing to get the accolades he felt he deserved for Off The Wall. We then learn why MJ chose "The Girl Is Mine" as the first single.

Despite my previous indifference towards the song, the remastered studio footage showcasing Mike Jackson and Paul's genuine camaraderie and effortless exchange of vocal ideas left a lasting impression on me. Witnessing such a harmonious collaboration was heartwarming, and I couldn't help but admire their musical talents.

Other highlights include Jackson's team using their "skin in the game" to ensure "Beat It" was played on MTV, music journalist's passionate recollection of seeing "Billie Jean" performed at Motown 25, and the label's decision to almost not release "Thriller" as a single.

One of the biggest surprises of the doc is there is no new insight from Quincy Jones or the Jackson Family. In addition, I would have loved to hear some background on "The Lady In My Life" and more on the project's unreleased tracks. Nevertheless, Thriller 40 successfully pays homage to the album legacy, and success something we will never see again.

Final Grade: B+

Thriller 40 begins streaming tomorrow on Paramount+.

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