In the past few years, the rock and roll biopic genre has become rather popular at movie theaters. Bohemian Rhapsody chronicled the life and career of Queen's lead singer, Freddie Mercury then Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) portrayed Reginald Dwight, better known as Elton John, in his life story - Rocketman. This past December Naomi Ackie (Lady Macbeth) took on the task of recreating the life of what some feel was one of the best singers of all time - Whitney Houston. This week Sony Pictures Releasing is offering fans of the film and the singer the opportunity to purchase Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody on Blu-ray and Digital HD.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born on August 9th in Newark, New Jersey. From the beginning, she was destined for greatness. Her mother is Grammy-winning Gospel singer, Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie; As the World Turns), her cousin is Dionne Warwick and a close family friend was Aretha Franklin. Trained by her mother and singing as a soloist in the church choir, Houston was signed by Arista Records in 1983 and began a collaborative friendship with Arista head Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci; The Devil Wears Prada). Together the two made Houston a superstar. Unfortunately, once she married Bobby Brown (Ashton Sanders; Moonlight), things fell apart as he got her involved in heavy drug use. The singer/actress died on February 11, 2012.
Ackie gets points for bravery by taking on the role of one of the most iconic singers of the last century. I can only imagine that she had to have worked with a movement coach to get Houston's body language, especially during singing performances, just right. Luckily she does an incredible job and side-to-side comparisons between the film and Houston's performances are a close match. There are many times it seems Ackie is somehow channeling Houston which makes her performance throughout the film fairly strong. Another notable performance comes from veteran actor Tucci, who convincingly embodies the character of Davis. Tucci not only captures the mannerisms of the record executive but also replicates his tonal cadence.
The video quality is fairly strong considering the home entertainment release is only presented on Blu-ray and digital. The clarity of the details is incredible, especially where the costumes are concerned. The colors are strong and true and offer a wealth of visuals to peruse. Sadly, this is one case where I wish the audio was presented in Dolby Atmos. Houston wasn't dubbed "the voice" for nothing. Her vocal range, purity, and richness are still something to be experienced - not just heard - and while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is excellent, one can't help but feel that there could be so much more.
Another disappointment is the extras. Besides the digital download, there are two extras that total less than an hour of footage. There is so much more that could have been included, the lack of extras makes the viewer crave more. The extras included are Whitney's Jukebox, Deleted Scenes, and Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes (Moments of an Icon, Becoming Whitney, The Personal Touch).
The untimely and accidental death of Whitney Houston left a giant hole in the world of music that will be felt forever. She not only had an incredible voice but a powerful yet vulnerable personality. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody attempts to capture her essence while showing significant moments throughout her life that shaped the woman she became. Unfortunately, even with Ackie's and Tucci's talents, they can only do so much with a mediocre screenplay and decent but uninspired directing.
Fans of the singer (and I consider myself one) will want to purchase this combo pack that shows snippets of a person few people really knew. I think if the story had covered more of the personal moments rather than the public milestones fans already knew, the film would have been more well received. Regardless, Houston's legacy and her music thankfully endure and even though the film barely scratched the surface of the complicated woman she was, it is nonetheless a beautiful tribute to her.