The Voice of a Generation

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Director: Kasi Lemmons

Cast: Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders (Moonlight), Tamara Tunie, Clarke Peters, Daniel Washington

Running time: 2 hours and 26 minutes

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

In an effort to paint the celebrated musician Whitney Houston in a constantly positive light, Harriet director Kasi Lemmons choses to focus on all the high points of Whitney’s celebrated and controversial life in the new musical biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody starring British breakout star Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones) as her smart and efficient manager Clive Davis.

The Multi-Grammy winning American singer, was the first woman of colour to attract a completely multiracial American audience in the late 1980’s and in the 1990’s and was often accused that her music was not black enough. Whitney Houston’s brief excursion into acting landed her the lead role in the iconic 1992 film The Bodyguard opposite the hot young star of the 1990’s Kevin Costner.

I Wanna Dance Somebody covers all the tumultuous years of Whitney’s career from her incredible highs including the singing of the Star Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida at the outbreak of the Gulf War to her passionate commitment to the anti-apartheid movement including her concerts in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa in November 1994 after the first democratic elections were held.

However, the Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten fails to contextualize certain key moments of Whitney Houston’s life and director Kasi Lemmons handles Whitney’s drug addiction and her terrible relation with R & B singer husband Bobby Brown played by Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders with kid gloves, without really giving the audience enough subtext and specific details.

Which means by the time the two and a half hour biopic ends, the death of Whitney Houston in a plush bathtub at the Beverly Hilton during Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party in Los Angeles on the 11th February 2012 is completely glossed over and hardly mentioned. This was one of the most dramatic deaths of a famous celebrity since River Phoenix and Marilyn Monroe. The media frenzy and consequent fallout of Whitney Houston’s death in 2012 should have been in this film 10 years later.

British new comer Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) does a relatively good job of playing Whitney Houston however she does struggle to keep the emotional pace of a playing a music legend for two and a half hours. Maybe Austin Butler and Rami Malek need to give her some advice.

Stanley Tucci is entertaining as Clive Davis, but again Tucci does not get enough screen time and McCarten does not give the talented star enough interesting dialogue.

The best part about I Wanna Dance with Somebody is the fantastic music of Whitney Houston in which Naomi Ackie does a good job of delivering the voice of the late 1980’s.

Unfortunately as a musical biopic, there is a lot of excellent content out there already and I Wanna Dance with Somebody just falls short of becoming a brilliant film although it is entertaining and will satisfy the fans of Whitney Houston.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for the music but less for the incoherent storyline.

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