When remembering the enduring life and profession of Whitney Houston, there are a lot of defining moments that immediately spring to thoughts: when she obliterated “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the Tremendous Bowl in 1991, thereby rendering all different variations subpar, her hovering rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard,” and even her live performance at Wembley Stadium in honor of Nelson Mandela. Within the new biopic “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” these moments are acknowledged, albeit briefly. As an alternative, writer-producer Anthony McCarten has chosen to bookend this slog via Houston’s profession and all-too-short life with … her efficiency on the 1994 American Music Awards?
Certainly, the 10-minute medley, which is re-created in full, was a virtuosic vocal efficiency of which solely Houston was succesful, however this deep lower appears an odd option to open and shut the movie. It’s the type of selection that makes one query all the pieces in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a movie that isn’t engrossing sufficient by itself to forestall one’s thoughts from wandering towards the nagging questions on who made these selections and why.
Director Kasi Lemmons is behind the digicam, although McCarten, the author of such award-winning biopics as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Darkest Hour,” “The Theory of Everything” and “The Two Popes,” is the driving pressure, having bought the rights to Houston’s life and written the screenplay on spec. Legendary music mogul Clive Davis can be a producer, in addition to Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, former supervisor and the executor of her property. Davis is performed by Stanley Tucci within the movie as a heat father determine and confidant for Whitney, whereas Kris Sidberry has a small position as Pat.
British actress Naomi Ackie bravely takes on the not possible activity that’s portraying Houston. Whereas Ackie transforms herself, and nails all of the Whitney-style mannerisms and gestures, the actual fact of the matter is that Whitney Houston’s expertise and sweetness was otherworldly in a method that mere mortals merely can’t channel.
Because the movie, set to the beat of that regular music biopic rhythm, progresses from hit tune to hit tune, with cautious alternatives from Whitney’s sophisticated life taking part in out in between, the entire thing begins to really feel like a promotion of her again catalog. What McCarten chooses to disclose and conceal in Whitney’s story is telling, particularly should you’ve seen any of the documentaries about her life; 2017’s “Whitney: Can I Be Me?” or 2018’s “Whitney.”
The delicate particulars of Whitney’s life are approached with blunt devices relatively than incisiveness, and what’s disregarded appears indicative of who’s telling the story and why. Her romantic relationship with shut pal Robyn (Nafessa Williams) is offered early and candidly, and the movie implies her substance abuse points are associated to her repressed sexuality and the strain to carry out on the behest of her exploitative father John (Clarke Peters) and demanding, perfectionist mom Cissy (Tamara Tunie). Whitney’s drug use is offered as a solo endeavor, or as part of her relationship with R&B unhealthy boy Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders), whereas different members of her internal circle are let off the hook.
Lemmons is a gifted and skilled filmmaker, however cinematically, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is inert, leaving one to ponder if she was hamstrung by producers, the script, or taking pictures through the pandemic. There is no such thing as a sense of world-building or life past the perimeters of the body. Lemmons and Ackie faithfully re-create a few of Whitney’s memorable music movies, however it at all times appears like Ackie is sporting a Whitney Houston costume relatively than inhabiting a completely realized human being.
Because the movie progresses towards Whitney’s tragic finish, it begins to tackle a distinctly ghoulish high quality, particularly a scene that imagines her state of mind earlier than her loss of life. It’s a movie that finally feels much less like a celebration and extra like additional exploitation of the star, leaving us all with rather more unsettling questions on Houston’s life and legacy. Sadly, the disappointing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” doesn’t let Whitney relaxation in peace.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune Information Service movie critic.
Rated: PG-13, for robust drug content material, some robust language, suggestive references and smoking
Operating time: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Enjoying: Begins Dec. 23 generally launch