THE JACKSONS: AN AMERICAN DREAM


title: THE JACKSONS: AN AMERICAN DREAM
year: 1992
cast: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Angela Bassett, Billy Dee Williams
rating: ***

A decent biopic miniseries that could have been great had they put as much into the stardom of the Jacksons (and Michael in particular) then they did the struggle to get there. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who hasn't been in much since "Welcome Back Kotter", plays the dominating patriarch, Joe Jackson, and while his performance is decent enough, there's not enough reasons explained behind his sometimes overly temperamental methods of making (forcing) his five kids to practice their singing and dancing in order to "make it big". Since they did make it big, one can say... Joe did alright. But since he made them call him "Joseph" instead of father, cheated on his wife, didn't want them to have girlfriends, and wasn't very friendly... perhaps fame wasn't worth the price of having a very controlling dad. And it's not exactly clear whether we should love him, hate him, or just put up with him... like the family. The first half of the miniseries, beginning with Joe and his wife (played by Angela Bassett) meeting, having many children, living in poverty, practicing to become a band and then being signed by Barry Gordy's Motown label, is quite entertaining. All the kids, especially the younger Michael, do a fantastic job acting, dancing and singing. But then when they get famous things are on fast-forward, eventually cutting from 1976, after the Jacksons drop out of Motown records and go on their own, to 1983... a year after Michael's megaton album Thriller had already been released (yet he's working on Thriller-tracks in the studio, which is confusing). We never see the leap Michael goes through with Thriller - still the biggest album of all time - catapulting him into an icon - and what this instant titanic stardom did to his brothers (c'mon, they HAD TO be jealous). The actor playing the adult Michael, unlike the younger actor, seemed to be doing a mere imitation. And then, showing the Jacksons during their 1985 "Victory Tour", it all seems to wrap up much too quickly, leaving out a lot of important things having to do with success and it's ramifications. But the first half, as the family works to make it big - is good enough. At least for some awesome Motown music and a little bit of history - even though it is, for the most part, Jackson propaganda. But, being that Michael had enough bad things centered on them, why not? After all, despite the plethora of quirky (and bizarre and allegedly perverted) habits, he did have talent. And even though his vehicle eventually derailed, for a while there, the kid had quite a drive.

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