Movie Review: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Judd Apatow did a funny parody of music biopics with his Walk Hard. That’s why the film on Weird Al was so much fun. It also just goofed at the whole genre. The filmmakers involved here decided to make what felt like a TV movie, filled with cliches. 

Naomi Ackie does a fine job playing Whitney Houston. Yet as I watched her meet her female lover, I immediately thought – do two people meeting for the first time talk this way? One of my pet peeves is a screenplay that has people speaking in a way that doesn’t feel authentic. 

Ashton Sanders is great as Bobby Brown. They certainly didn’t have a “meet cute” and that was refreshing.

The problem is that screenwriter Anthony McCarten…really dropped the ball here. He did fine with some true stories (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour), but when he tackled one of my favorite bands (Bohemian Rhapsody), that really disappointed me. So seeing a movie about an artist who I was always just lukewarm on anyway…made the two and a half hours of this rather painful (it didn’t help that everyone in the audience kept talking non-stop; my favorite being the man explaining to his 10-year-old daughter what it meant to “lose a baby.” Folks, this isn’t a movie for kids. Remember, Whitney and Bobby Brown become drug addicts. But I digress). 

We see Clive Davis’ name in the opening credits, and we realize this must be an “authorized biography” because of how sugar-coated everything is. Now, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t show some of her negatives, but they don’t nearly delve into how bad she was. It comes off here as her being vulnerable and dealing with a tough industry with pushy personalities all around her. 

The role of Whitney’s friend Robyn, turned lover, turned business partner, turned friend, turned secret friend…is played well by Nafessa Williams. 

Her mom, gospel singer Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie), comes across poorly in this picture. Her father (played by Clarke Peters) would give Michael Jackson’s dad Joe a run for his money. 

The casting of Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis is brilliant, as he looks the part (it’s unfortunate that for those of us that are big Tucci fans, his voice is still the same one we recognize, which takes you out of the picture a bit). I enjoyed the scenes that showed him playing cassette songs for her, that she might record. They did a neat edit showing her listening, then recording a song. I do have a hard time believing it was Clive that came in, during her filming of The Bodyguard, and said that Kevin wanted her to have a big musical number. He then had her listen to a walkman of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It seems to me, this would have just been something Kevin Costner, or the director, would have told her directly.

If you’re a hardcore Whitney Houston fan, you’ll probably enjoy this. I just expect more from films. Hell, The Doors are my favorite band, and I hated the movie Oliver Stone gave us about them (not Van Morrison, Jim Morrison…dang it! This is starting to sound like “Who’s on First?”)

You’re better off just listening to a Whitney Houston “Greatest Hits” CD or download, and reading the wiki page on her.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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