February 4, 2023

The Pitch: In 2012, America misplaced its Voice — Whitney Houston, the once-in-a-generation pop music icon, tragically died on the too-young age of 48. She was on the verge of a comeback after a stint in rehab, haunted by the dual specters of medicine and expectation; that we by no means bought to see that lovely second act makes her passing all of the extra tragic.

Within the meantime, we’ve bought the songs and story Whitney left behind, and Kasi Lemmons’ I Wanna Dance with Anyone (or, as Sony’s Search engine optimization-focused title change goes, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Anyone) tries to stuff that right into a two-and-a-half-hour speedrun of her life and profession, that includes Naomi Ackie because the tragic determine.

We see her early days as a gospel singer, groomed for greatness by her formidable mom Cissy (a perfectly-balanced Tamara Tunie) and domineering father (Clarke Peters). Earlier than lengthy, she’s caught the eye of document producer Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) and her profession is off to the races, banging out hit after hit and attaining crossover fame as one of many first Black feminine performers to resonate with white audiences.

However turning into “America’s Princess” is hardly a picnic, as she should form her sound and persona to facilitate her meteoric success. Her early romance with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams) tragically offers option to enjoying straight for the general public, guiding her proper into Bobby Brown’s arms (Ashton Sanders). And down the rabbit gap we go, barreling indefatigably towards that fateful day in 2012.

The Biggest Love of All: As in comparison with different diversifications of Whitney’s life, I Wanna Dance with Anyone comes with the blessing of Houston’s members of the family, particularly her brother and sister-in-law. And to its credit score, it succeeds most mightily when giving the individuals what they need: Whitney Houston, on a stage, singing her coronary heart out. Ackie, an English actress who makes up for a scarcity of bodily resemblance with a surfeit of the singer’s stage presence, does yeoman’s work with the dramatic materials she’s given (extra on that later).

It’s in entrance of the mic that we see the depths of Ackie’s dynamism — she could not have Whitney’s pipes (who does?) however she will lip-sync with the perfect of them, capturing all of Whitney’s dramatic gestures and vocal runs with pinpoint precision. It’s replication, however it’s additionally interpretation, incorporating what we acknowledge as Whitney into her personal conflicted tackle the character. As frenetic as her life could also be, all of it melts away when she’s singing, and these prolonged sequences show candy reduction.

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Anyone (Sony)

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