I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

★★★

FAR FROM THE GREATEST LOVE OF ALL

BOXING DAY REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
21st December 2022

Whenever a new biopic is announced, I always meet it with trepidation. The stars they decide are somehow worthy of a big screen adaptation have lived large and tumultuous lives; if they hadn't there wouldn't be a movie made about them. But the key word here is "large" - too large for a 90- to 180-minute consolidation of their existence. And therein lies the biggest issue: good biopics are hard to come by. Great ones are even harder. And then, occasionally, the right performer can outshine the vehicle, such as Jamie Foxx or Renée Zellweger.

Whitney Houston's life was big... huge, in fact. It started young, rose meteorically, and she had the beauty and unparalleled talent to justify it all. When faced with such a daunting task of condensing her tragically short yet full life into a single film, one must ask three questions; where to start? Where to finish? And what do we put in between? The answer to the first two questions are simply - the 1994 American Music Awards where Whitney took to the stage with a medley that brought that house down and is heralded as her greatest ever live performance. Unfortunately for Ms Houston and 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', the answer to the last question was "everything". Not an uncommon answer, it just pains me that no one seems to learn from their predecessors. Hollywood knows how to do a great biopic - even a successful one - so why oh why do they keep fucking them up!?

'WHITNEY HOUSTON: I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY' TRAILER

I won't bother you with rehashing the plot. If you're over the age of 25 you know it already. And if you're under the age of 25, then just go see the damn movie regardless and learn a little something about the greatest vocalist of all time. Expect to hear great music by a phenomenal performer and little else. 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' is a case of "a little about a lot" and not "a lot about a little". A successful biopic requires focus - something this film is severely lacking. It's all over the shop, not knowing which story it wants to tell or, worse still, who the film is for. For 146 minutes, audiences are subject to an ill-defined flurry of scenes that act more like a highlights reel than a cohesive life, stopping occasionally to play out full performances of Whitney's most famous songs from 'How Will I Know' to 'It's Not Right But It's Okay' and even her Super Bowl version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' makes the cut, thereby, miraculously justifying it's 2 and a half hour run time.

The work Ackie has put in to capture, mimic and embody Houston is evident and it pays off. She clearly knew the shoes she had to fill and rises to the task.

The film's saving grace is its star Naomi Ackie. Yeah, I had never heard of her either, but my god she is beguiling as Whitney. The work Ackie (who also serves as Executive Producer) has put in to capture, mimic and embody Houston is evident and it pays off. She clearly knew the shoes she had to fill and rises to the task. The lip quivers, signature giggle and what I can only imagine was an eye-watering wig and prosthetic teeth budget can and do a lot of the heavy lifting, but Naomi's performance is undeniable - only to be let down by a poor screenplay, questionable direction and editing done with kindergarten scissors and some Clag glue. Too much is glossed over or ignored completely. Sure, you can say all that bad stuff that graced every single tabloid cover from here to Timbuktu in the 90s was just gossip and rumour without an ounce of truth - which I'm sure it was, in some part - but when everyone is saying the same thing... you get the idea. Even Bobby Brown gets a redemption of sorts. I'm not quite sure how or why they managed to pull that off.

Fans will be happy - they get their songs and a shiny new starlet worthy of the role. However, film lovers need to try the next cinema over for something worthy of their time and money, or watch 'Walk The Line' or 'What's Love Got To Do With It' to see how it should have been done and dream of what could have been.

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