Starting off with any review of a movie Biopic about Whitney Houston – the choice of the title “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is probably the worst decision I have ever seen for a title in the history of movies. What the hell were they all thinking coming up with such a stupid title? Just about any title the producers could have thought of, would be better than this idiotic one for such an important, sad and significant story about arguably the greatest singer of all time.
Some four years ago I reviewed the documentary Whitney a more complete and accurate description of the tragedy of Whitney Houston – mainly because a documentary is a better vehicle for a story about the extreme highs and lows of celebrity than any movie could be.
This movie succeeds in addressing most of the important high and low points of Whitney Houston’s life, although too much of the first half of this film deals with the “more than just a friendship” relationship that Whitney had with Robyn Crawford. Considering all that happened during Whitney’s short life, showing this much of this one relationship misses the most important underlying message of this preventable tragedy: how one person turned a one in a billion talent into a curse that ended her life in a bathtub after drowning because of drug use at only age 48.
So what went wrong? I remember some years ago reading an ESPN report about a high percentage of NBA and NFL retired players who went broke within 5 years of leaving their sport. The reason is that young athletes have no idea how to manage a great deal of money. They spend like there is no tomorrow, like their sports careers will be going on forever. Many of them forget they have to pay taxes – both State and Federal. It was the same problem for Whitney Houston, played very well by actress Naomi Ackie. Whitney spent far too much money, mistakenly allowed her criminal father to manage her career and even steal from her. She paid salaries to too many of her family members. Money was spent to get her husband Bobby Brown out of legal trouble, far too many times. Money was spent on private jets and too many unnecessary extravagances and drug use. Making a great deal of money requires a great deal of responsibility and know-how. Just like so many formerly wealthy athletes, Whitney Houston should have been a client of a very large accounting firm, that managed all of her money, and her career and gave her a monthly allowance. Surprisingly, when you realize the importance of Whitney Houston’s music producer, Clive Davis (played very well by Stanley Tucci), it makes little sense that Clive did not help her with this extremely important aspect of her career – her money.
Sadly, towards the end of Whitney Houston’s life, she was almost completely broke due to decades of financial mismanagement. All of this led to ongoing circles of self-destruction born from too much too young and an innate inability to tolerate all of the horrible things people say and do, that destroyed what should have been an amazing life into a tragic one. This movie forgot to mention that it was Al Sharpton who called for the boycotting of Whitney Houston’s music because he thought it was too white. Big mouth Sharpton forgot that Whitney Houston was a 19 year old child, terrified over having so much fame and fortune at a young age. Sharpton did not care that Whitney was just doing what she was told to do, because she was so young. What Sharpton did care about was stirring up a frenzy at the expense of a young girl – using once again, his huge big mouth.
One highlight of this film was showing Whitney’s two incredible performances on the Merv Griffin show in 1983 and her once in a lifetime performance in the Super Bowl, singing the National Anthem – arguably the greatest musical performance in front of the largest audience in human history. In January 1991 when Whitney Houston hit this incredible high note, there was nowhere else to go – but down. As I wrote 4 years ago when reviewing the documentary “Whitney”, after “The Bodyguard” released in 1992, Whitney Houston had nothing more to prove and should have retired. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20-20.
I can only guess that the very low 48% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes have to do with the too-long running time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, the important parts that were missing from this story, including the jealous relationship that Whitney’s mother Cissy Houston had with her daughter, the tragic end of Whitney Houston’s own daughter and ultimately the completely absurd title. Once again the critics are wrong and I give this film a solid 80% for the acting, the musical performances and the well-told story.