Rated: PG-13
Release Date: 12/23/2022
Production Company: Sony Pictures Releasing

Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams and Clarke Peters.

Director: Kasi Lemmons. Producers: Clive Davis, Ramses del Hierro, Eric Falkenstein, Suzanne B. Grant, Patricia Houston, Matt Jackson, Jeff Kalligheri, Ross Kestin, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Anthony McCarten, Lawrence Mestel, Denis O'Sullivan, Christina Papagika, Ryan Ratelle, Matthew Salloway and Molly Smith. Executive Producers: Naomi Ackie, Janice Beard, Lexi Beard, Tanner Beard, Jane Bergere, Marina Cappi, Dennis Casali, Josh Crook, William Earon, Matthew Gallagher, Erika Hampson, Joshua Kushner, Stella Meghie, Rachel Smith, Seth Spector. Screenwriter: Anthony McCarten. Cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

If fate is kind, Naomi Ackie's sensational portrayal as Whitney Houston in the searing biopic, "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," should catapult her career. Ackie is no stranger to the big and small screen.

The 30-year-old British actress made her television debut in "Doctor Who" (2015) and went on to star in the dark dramady TV series "The End of the F***ing World" and "Master of None." Ackie is perhaps best known for her role as Jannah in 2019's "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

However, what Ackie delivers in "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" is simply extraordinary. The only thing she doesn't do in the film is actually sing. Then again, who could possibly duplicate Houston's magnificent voice? If that person existed, you better believe Clive Davis or Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis would have already signed them to their label.
Even so, Ackie impressively lip-synchs to Houston’s vocals. It doesn't take long before you are convinced that Ackie is indeed Whitney Houston.

"I Wanna Dance with Somebody," from director Kasi Lemmons ("Women of the Movement"), isn't just a Whitney Houston greatest hits movie. Although, the music is there and a reminder of what a talent Houston was especially when Lemmons recreates that stunning Super Bowl national anthem moment along with videos/songs of "How Will I Know" and "It's Not Right but It's Okay" along with Houston's star turn at the 1994 American Music Awards.

The film is bold, dramatic and showcases Houston's meteoric rise to stardom and her tragic fall without glossing over all the messiness and entanglements along the way. Kudos to Lemmons for that.

Not only does Ackie stand out in the film, but the entire supporting cast is great too. Starting with Arista Records mogul Clive Davis who is played to perfection by Stanley Tucci (TV's "Inside Man"). Maybe we can finally get Tucci in the Awards conversation now after this performance. Wearing that wig should count for something.

All it took for Davis to sign Houston was him hearing her sing as the opening act for her mother Cissy (Tamara Tunie, "A Journal for Jordan") at Sweetwater's a local club in New York City. “I think I might have just heard the greatest voice of a generation,” Davis says without hesitation.

That's because Houston had a great head start as a singer. Her mother Cissy was a member of the group The Sweet Inspirations and she schooled her daughter on enunciating her words, breathing techniques, and singing from her heart and soul. Clearly, Houston was a quick study.

The relationship Davis and Houston formed comes across as genuine and heartwarming in the film. Davis, gives Houston ample room to learn, grow and become a musical legend. He initially vows not to interfere in Houston's personal life which included a romantic relationship with her girlfriend Robyn Crawford (an excellent Nafessa Williams, "Black and Blue" and TV's "Black Lightning"). Robyn also became Houston's assistant much to the dismay of her strict and money loving father, John (a terrific Clarke Peters, "Da 5 Bloods" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri").

Houston's father insisted she maintains a "positive image and brand." He wanted her to be seen in public only with men and wanted her to push Robyn aside. Even when Houston tried that route and met and eventually married singer Bobby Brown (an exceptional Ashton Sanders, "Judas and the Black Messiah" and TV's "Wu-Tang: An American Saga"), her new life with their daughter Bobbi Kristina (played by Bailee Lopes and Danielle Singleton) soon begins to spiral out of control.

The reason? Mainly her addiction to crack cocaine. Actually, there were a number of issues surrounding Houston that made her an emotional wreck and had a significant impact on her career.

For the legion of fans who love her music--and I count myself among them--it's still hard to accept that such a bright talent dubbed, "The Voice" is gone. Houston died February 11, 2012, from an accidental bathtub drowning at a Beverly Hills hotel. She was 48 years old and remains one of the bestselling music artists of all time.

With "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," director Kasi Lemmons and screenwriter Anthony McCarten ("The Two Popes") capture Houston's tumultuous life story with respect and panache. This is a stunning and superb movie. I loved it.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 5:17 p.m. and 6:47 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.


Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


<b> That Man Bolt</b> Title: That Man Bolt
Year Released: 1973
Running Time: 103
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Director: Henry Levin and David Lowell Rich
Director of Photography: Gerald Perry Finnerman
Screenwriter: Charles Johnson and Ranald MacDougall
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: Updated Feature--2023

After Fred "The Hammer" Williamson carved out a stellar career as a defensive back in the National Football League with teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs (Williamson played in Super Bowl I), The Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers, Williamson tackled Hollywood and became an...
Which one of the following 1970s TV shows was re-made into a big screen movie and starred Fred "The Hammer" Williamson?
"Starsky & Hutch"
"Charlie's Angels"
"Hawaii Five-O"