I Wanna Dance With Somebody Review- A Paint By Numbers Musical Biopic

In the last few years or so there has been an influx of musical biopics from Bohemian Rhapsody to Rocketman to this year where there are two big musical biopics in Elvis and I Wanna Dance With Somebody about the rise and tragic fall of Whitney Houston. Otherwise known as The Voice as she was dubbed by fans and critics alike. She was genuinely one of the best singers of her generation if not the greatest.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (Naomi Ackie) was a young woman who learned to sing from her mother Sissy Houston (Tamara Tunie) who was a popular singer in her day. She was a bit overbearing but it helped to get her daughter to do a better job. So much so that she eventually broke off on her own without her mother. After a solo performance singing The Greatest Love of All in front of music mogul Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci), he signed her to a record contract the very next day. Her burgeoning singing career was off and running.

Like most famous people Whitney had people in her life that she either loved or they took advantage of her such as Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams), Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders), and her father John Houston (Clarke Peters). These people were the ones that had the most contact with her therefore they were also the reasons why she had issues with drugs or became a big problem for her regarding her finances and so forth. 

Musical biopics usually do one of two things in their portrayal of whatever musician they are depicting and those are a straightforward retelling of the performer’s life with the actor or actors portraying that person or persons by singing their songs themselves or lip-synching the songs. This film is the latter with Ackie doing all the lip-synching herself. She does a great job at it as well. She got all the mannerisms of Whitney Houston. The facial tics and the hand and body movements. She became Whitney Houston. She is the reason to see this film. 

Even though Ackie and others in the cast were very good at playing their characters the movie itself is a paint-by-numbers biopic. It glosses over all the little details in Whitney Houston’s life and just uses a framing device to start and end the film while using dates to show the various moments that were the most memorable, such as the Super Bowl where she sang the National Anthem, or various videos, where she sang some of her biggest hits Like I’m Every Woman or her hit single from the film The Bodyguard, I Will Always Love You. This is a typical style of a musical biopic though. The film captured that aspect perfectly.

The director Kasi Lemmons captures a lot of Whitney Houston’s iconic videos like How Will I Know and so many more such as the title of the film I Wanna Dance With Somebody. She used the behind-the-scenes departments to make Ackie look like Houston regarding the clothes and hairstyles she was known for during her career. As far as the production and how it was executed it wasn’t a bad film. 

I wanna Dance With Somebody wasn’t a bad musical biopic. What it was was a paint-by-numbers biopic. It covered all the main beats in the life of Whitney Houston but didn’t delve into much more. It showed how she got addicted to drugs but didn’t go into her mindset. It showed her relationships good and bad but didn’t delve into why they were important to her or why they became toxic. The film just didn’t go the extra length even though it was a little long at two hrs and twenty-six minutes. I got what I wanted from the movie but maybe I could have gotten a little more in the end.

3 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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