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michael jackson searching for neverland, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (2017)

Never cast a dumb blonde as a dumb blonde, or so the adage goes, for the actress will not have the required talent to successfully play the role. Yet for every rule there is an exception, as the robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger proved in The Terminator. Noted Michael Jackson impersonator Navi also falls into this category, with his thespian inexperience mirroring Jackson’s social awkwardness. It complements a reasonable resemblance to the performer that almost completes the illusion. That is until Navi opens his mouth and greets Jackson's new bodyguard in a discernible British accent. “Hello Bill” he utters, though it may as well have been “Ello Guv’nor”.

Based on Bill Whitfield’s book ‘Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days’, this film is framed by it's author's testimony before an inquest into Jackson’s death. Flashing back to the entertainer’s return to America after years of self-imposed exile, the biopic presents a sympathetic portrayal of a financially insecure Jackson struggling to protect his children from an ever-encroaching world. Masks are de rigueur whenever Prince, Paris and Blanket are in public and games of hide-and-seek are short-lived due to a conspicuous, but unpaid, security detail. As funds continue to dry up, Jackson is forced to return to the stage.

Like the previous unauthorised biopic Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story, this film was unable to secure the rights to any of Jackson’s music. Fortunately for the filmmakers, Jackson was not performing at this point in his life, allowing them to avoid cobbling together some lacklustre pastiche of his performances. Also missing, rather noticeably, is any reference to the child abuse allegations launched against Jackson, save from one line in which he professes his innocence.

 

Instead, the film illustrates the entertainer’s life away from the stage, and what a tale of woe it is. Estranged family members literally and figuratively gatecrash his home, overzealous fans threaten the safety of his children while paparazzi clamber for a photo of them unmasked. Standing in their way is Whitfield, whose story remains the primary focus of this biopic. As such, Navi’s lack of acting ability is shielded from the burden of carrying the film, though when given the chance he proves himself quite capable.

Incidentally, the film closing credits are accompanied by a performance of Charlie Chaplin's 'Smile', making this the second biopic to do so.

2AndAHalf
Navi, Michael Jackson
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