Neil Patrick Harris appeared on the latest episode of Lip Sync Battle performing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

And frankly, he couldn’t quite pull it off.

Neil Patrick Harris (or NPH for short) is no stranger to big production dance numbers. The guy practically lives in a never-ending series of musicals, either on stage where he’s performed in Rent, Cabaret, and Sweeney Todd, or on TV hosting the Emmy Awards or Saturday Night Live. Frankly, I think most of us believe his home in Upper Manhattan to be a constant string of musical performances.

But as prolific a dancer as NPH is, he may have bitten off more than he can chew when he chose to imitate Michael Jackson in a rendition of “Smooth Criminal”. NPH has got a lot of moves, but Michael Jackson is the stuff of legends.

First, let’s set the stage, which very closely resembles the 1920’s-style speakeasy from the original “Smooth Criminal” music video. Much like the original, NPH as Michael Jackson enters the bar to much fanfare, but unlike the music video, he doesn’t come to start or break up fights. Rather, he’s just there to provide some pretty foreground to a background of dancers that have far better moves than he does.

Where was the Moonwalk? The crotch grab? The incredibly fast spins and lightning kicks? The Elvis-inspired footwork that hasn’t been challenged since either of their passing? The instantaneous hat-tilts that made “Smooth Criminal” unique among all of Jackson’s many music videos? As incredible a performer as Neil Patrick Harris is, we got almost none of the moves that made Michael Jackson so iconic.

To be fair to NPH, he did give us a fair version of the anti-gravity lean, something that Jackson debuted in “Smooth Criminal”. And he did throw out a few finger guns and was generally able to pop his chest in time with the beat. But make no mistake, NPH is no Michael Jackson.

In case you need a reminder, here’s the real deal:


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