IF YOU DIDN'T tune in for last night's premiere of Michael Jackson's new video, ''Remember the Time,'' you have some questions about what you missed. ''What was the story line?'' you may be wondering. ''Were the special effects good? Was Eddie Murphy funny? Could Magic Johnson act?
''And did Michael grab his crotch again?''
To answer the most important question first: No, he didn't grab his crotch. Nor did he trash any parked cars, or throw steering wheels or trash cans through storefront windows. In fact, he didn't do anything even remotely scandalous -- and that includes his performance in the video's love scene.
Although to tell the truth, it was less a love scene than a like scene. Here's how it unfolds: Eddie Murphy is a scowling Egyptian pharaoh whose queen (statuesque supermodel Iman) announces that she's bored and desires amusement. So Pharaoh Eddie gives the command, and the royal master of ceremonies (played awkwardly but endearingly by basketball star Magic Johnson) brings on the entertainment.
Unfortunately, the first two acts don't slay her -- it's more like the other way around. So nobody's hopes are up when a hooded stranger appears, and sprinkles a bit of magic dust on the floor. But when the stranger disappears into the floor and a singing, dancing Michael Jackson appears, the whole court is enthralled.
Everyone, that is, but Pharaoh Eddie, who becomes enraged when the King of Pop kisses his queen's hand. He orders Jackson seized; the singer runs, and from there the video dissolves rapidly into cliche.
Except that one of those cliches -- the love scene -- is uncharted territory for Jackson. As a result, the sequence is appall
ingly unconvincing, beginning with a surprisingly chaste embrace and proceeding into an awkward kiss that finds the lanky supermodel sinking almost to her knees in a desperate attempt to avoid towering over Jackson. Watch closely, and you'll note that the kiss actually breaks off twice, though whether that's due to Michael's modesty or her increasingly precarious balance is hard to say.
Beyond that, however, ''Remember the Time'' is just an elaborate piece of dress-up for Jackson and his buddies -- more elaborate than most of what you'll see on MTV, but not by much.
Still, for those who enjoy keeping track of the singer's quirks, it is worth noting that this video continues the feline motif established in the ''Black or White'' video. Indeed, the first and last thing you see in the ''Remember the Time'' clip is a gray-striped kitten, as if it represented something important to the singer.
Could this explain why we never see Bubbles any more?