Moonwalker, released during the singles run of Michael Jackson’s Bad album, is one of the wildest films of the 1980s. From MJ transforming into a car to Joe Pesci sporting a vertical ponytail, Moonwalker is full of mad sh*t.
Sadly, for those wanting to see MJ star in a generic 90-minute story, Moonwalker does in fact present itself as an anthology movie – loosely using a single from Bad as a chapter or story as such. The only consistent narrative figure, however, other than MJ, is of the villainous Frankie LiDeo (Pesci). Before the run of Bad-influenced anthology stories, Moonwalker shamelessly kicks off with a recap of MJ’s insanely successful career as both a solo artist and member of The Jackson 5, until delving into bizarre material, much of which has not aged well in the 30 years since its release.
The bizarre material comes into frame once Moonwalker transcends its slight documentary/biographical nature into a fictional narrative, immediately displaying MJ happily playing with a few children, a dog, and a football on a sunny day… Oh no, folks, MJ miraculously discovers an entrance to the underground drug factory, where within an obvious dystopian look, a plastic spider on a wall signals Frankie LiDeo’s presence down below. In short, Frankie LiDeo aka Mr. Big, is a drug baron in possession of an army of spiders carrying drugs within nuts with the intention to supply to children in schoolyards – yes, you read that right.
“Crack, cocaine… Bugs and drugs, bugs and drugs.”
The hilarity continues with an alternate reality of sorts where MJ is sporting his signature gangster look, and LiDeo has a firing squad ready to take out the King of Pop, but only for Moonwalker’s hero to become a car. Yes, MJ transforms into a futuristic, Lamborghini knock-off, somehow. Joe Pesci’s involvement in Moonwalker is hilarious to a first-time viewer, as in the modern day he is primarily recognised for his violent yet also comedic work in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, all of the Lethal Weapon sequels, and the first two Home Alone films, so to see the 5ft4 tall actor sport high heels along with his vertical ponytail and sunglasses in the dark is the ultimate spectacle of hilarity, yet not as shameful as Gone Fishin’.
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Artistically, Moonwalker is somewhat of a spectacle, successfully mirroring the choreography and drama presented in MJ’s music videos. In fusing both 80’s MTV-era visuals with crazed Frankie LiDeo and drug nuts, Moonwalker does present itself as a weirdly stylistic hybrid, completely understandable as to why cult fandoms of this film exist. Though some visuals are stylish, a lot of the special effects and animation have aged horrifically in some proportions. There is almost room to suggest that had Moonwalker been released five years later during the CGI boom of the 90s, Moonwalker could have potentially stood the test of time with regards to CGI and special effects if financed by the same levels of money as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park were.
In terms of legacy, Moonwalker exists as a cult classic for many a reason: its weird nature; 80’s anthology; a classic of the Guild Home Video range; and MJ himself. A key point of interest for those into fandoms, is whether MJ fans actually acknowledge and like Moonwalker. Liking a singer’s music is completely normal, but to then like their work within another medium poses the question as to whether they like the music or the artist. As Moonwalker is actually about MJ’s music, starring the singer himself, it is completely logical to expect his fandom to be attracted to Moonwalker more so because of the music, and not the artist specifically. With Moonwalker, essentially, being a celebration (and promotion) of Bad, this film somewhat marks the end of MJ’s musical prime and predates the subsequent controversies in the early 90s.
Ultimately, Moonwalker is a film in desperate need of a 4K release.