August 09, 2004 12:00 PM

The Michael Jackson Story

VH1 (Fri., Aug. 6, 9 p.m. ET)

The 6’4″ star of UPN’s sitcom One on One playing the 511″ King of Pop? Wouldn’t Flex Alexander be better cast as Michael Jordan than Michael Jackson?

If you can get past the lack of a physical resemblance—okay, a leap is required—Alexander fares pretty well in this muddled TV movie. He sustains the breathy voice and childlike manner, and he seems committed to a characterization of Jackson as an essentially sweet-natured and incredibly naive Peter Pan. VH1 says Alexander did all his own dancing, though his face is often obscured during the performance and rehearsal scenes.

“We all worship at the feet of your talent,” his manager (Peter Onorati) assures Jackson, but the superstar’s work is not the true focus here. In treating the scandalous part of the story, the script wavers between reticence and titillation. When a boy is about to give investigators the details of his sleepovers at Jackson’s Neverland ranch, the film cuts away out of discretion—or indecision. At the end fans gather to support Jackson as he vows to fight sexual molestation charges, and we’re led to conclude that his stand is somehow inspiring. But with a trial pending, no one can accuse this movie of making a clear-cut case one way or the other.

Man in the Mirror is not only fuzzy but sometimes unintentionally funny. You’ll snicker at the caricature of Jack son’s loyal friend Liz Taylor (Lynne Cormack) and those dreamy visions of Diana Ross (Samantha Banton) reminding him to follow his heart. Despite Alexander’s efforts, the film can’t help verging on parody.

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