'Moonwalker' Glides In Michael Jackson Video Hits Stores, 300,000 Strong

Posted: January 10, 1989

He's got Judy Garland eyes, a Walter Payton voice, Mick Jagger's stage sneer and moves that made him $60 million richer in 1988.

And because his name is Michael Jackson, his new music video, ''Moonwalker," should sell a ton.

"Moonwalker" hits the stores today with a 300,000-copy initial shipment - the biggest ever for a music video, according to its distributor, CBS Music Video Enterprises. A Laser Videodisc edition is due out late next month.

Philadelphia stores are braced for the onslaught, mindful that Jackson's 10-minute "Thriller" video holds the music video sales record, with 600,000 copies sold.

Not in the same league as "E.T." - that's topped 15 million and counting - but not bad, either.

"I expect it to do very well," said Joe Murray, manager of Sam Goody at the Gallery. "He's still hot."

"We've ordered 150 units. That's quite a big number for us," said Jill MacDowell, video buyer for Tower Records on South Street, which does not expect to have "Moonwalker" until tomorrow. "E.T. was the only bigger order we've ever had."

MacDowell said the likely buyers of "Moonwalker" are "a pretty wide range of people, 10-25. Then you have a lot of (people in their)30s and 40s buying them for their kids."

So what do you get for $24.98?

"Moonwalker" is 94 minutes long, the front half of which is by far the best.

There's a Pepsi commercial; live concert footage of the change-the-world anthem "Man in the Mirror;" an amusing retrospective tracing Jackson's musical - and surgical - evolution as an entertainer; a kiddie remake of Jackson's "Bad" video; two superbly animated hits-to-be, "Speed Demon" and ''Leave Me Alone;" and a sensual reading of the Beatles' "Come Together."

The remainder is a tedious 40-minute chase and shoot-em-up titled "Smooth

Criminal," in which Jackson spends most of the time fleeing an evil drug lord. It's remarkable only for the elfin charm of Kellie Parker and the appearance of Sean Ono Lennon, son of John and Yoko. Parker and Lennon play ragamuffin children befriended by Jackson.

"Smooth Criminal," based on a story by Michael Jackson with script help

from screenwriter David Newman ("Bonnie and Clyde," "Superman"), casts Jackson as a dapper hero who saves all children from the drug menace. In the process, he has to transform himself into a robot and then a spaceship, and kill a lot of people.

Grown-ups will be bored, and kids will get the message that drugs are not cool, but violence is.

The film's best moments are in the playful "Speed Demon," in which Jackson interacts with a pack of grotesque "Claymation" figures, and the nose-thumbing "Leave Me Alone," an animated catalog of Jackson's headline- grabbing eccentricities.

They're all there: the nose job, the shrine to Liz Taylor, the growing resemblance to Diana Ross, the Elephant Man's bones, the pet llama, the pet python, the pet chimp, the wrinkle-fighting hyperbaric chamber.

Dog-faced "newshounds" with pencils, pads and cameras lurk at every turn as Jackson tours his own quirks without apology.

"Leave me alone," goes the catchy refrain, a dart aimed squarely at the media. "Just stop doggin' me around."

Jackson's irresistible music and gravity-defying footwork are the reason most fans will buy "Moonwalker," but young Brandon Adams steals a piece of the show. Adams is a pint-sized Jackson look-alike who dances up a storm in a remake of "Bad." This kid's got a future.

Credit for the super special effects goes to two-time Oscar winner Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London," "Gorillas in the Mist"); music filmmaker Jim Blashfield; Hoyt Yeatman ("Close Encounters of The Third Kind; ''Star Trek - The Motion Picture") and Eric Brevly, who worked with Jackson on "Captain Eo."

A spokesman for CBS Music Video wouldn't say how much "Moonwalker" cost to make, except to put it in the "multi-millions of dollars." Last January, when the project was still unfinished, one report said it had already eaten up $22 million.

The CBS folks are equally terse about how important "Moonwalker" is in the scheme of Jackson's career.

"He obviously doesn't need it to make money," the spokesman said.

"Moonwalker" stands to be the music video event of 1989 - at least until Jan. 31, when CBS Music Video delivers Bruce Springsteen's 100-minute

anthology of 18 songs spanning 10 years. The Boss will carry a price tag of $24.95.

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