As if put together by a new mother gliding a plastic utensil towards a tot’s mouth, Kasi Lemmon’s Whitney Houston biopic is a lukewarm, spoon fed offering that the late, great Grammy winner might’ve even rejected had it been a composition.
More a ‘MTV movie of the week’, than the epic, powerfully staged, warts n’ all look at the record breaking artist we desire, I Wanna Dance Somebody is at its best an informative and interesting feature-length ep of behind-the-music with a couple of fine performances by Naomie Ackie as Houston, and Stanley Tucci as her manager Clive Davis –but a musical biopic nearly good enough to earn a place alongside La Bamba, The Buddy Holly Story, or even the recent Elvis.
Where I Wanna Dance With Somebody succeeds is in its casting. As Houston, Ackie give an appropriately sassy and passionate performance as the pop great, keeping the buoy afloat even through its blandish beats. Helping disguise the film’s rushed, indecisive tone, an actor who has convincingly cribbed Houston’s expressions, mannerisms and speaking voice (no, it’s not her singing). Even if it plays it far too safe and doesn’t explore the necessary facets of Houston’s life nixed from its must-hit bullet list, the actress seems determined to channel Houston to a tee, suggesting she’d have actually won a statue or two if the script had strived just as hard as she did to be just as convincing.
A better way to spend two hours reliving the joy of Houston on film might be to pop The Bodyguard (1992) on.