I Wanna Dance With Somebody review – doggedly formulaic Whitney Houston biopic
The singer’s voice is mostly lip-synced, by British actor Naomi Ackie, but this by-numbers film falls well short of capturing Houston’s mega-watt appeal
Given the movie-friendly trajectory of Whitney Houston’s life and career (stellar rise; glittering success; tragic fall: check!), the main surprise is that it took as long as it did for her to end up as fodder for the always-hungry music biopic industry. What’s no surprise at all, unfortunately, is that this doggedly formulaic picture struggles to capture even a fraction of the electrifying sparkle of Houston at the peak of her powers. As music mogul Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) says, having just had his comb-over blasted several feet off his balding pate by the young Whitney’s vocal range, hers was a once-in-a-generation voice.
Not surprisingly, it’s predominantly Houston’s voice we hear in the film, with British actor Naomi Ackie lip-syncing pretty convincingly in the central role. But Houston was more than just that incredible voice. Her stage presence, her style, her winning charisma: it all combined into something unique. Something that Ackie only sporadically captures.