‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ First Clip Leaves Audiences Cold Due To Naomi Ackie’s Stone-Faced Whitney Houston Portrayal

'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' First Clip Leaves Audiences Cold Due To Naomi Ackie's Stone-Faced Whitney Houston Portrayal

In the age of lukewarm biopics, I Wanna Dance With Somebody refuse to raise the standard.

The upcoming drama, which follows the legacy of the late powerhouse Whitney Houston, released its debut clip to poor reception, with many pointing out that Naomi Ackie doesn’t have what it takes to fill Houston’s big shoes.

In the new video, Ackie steps up to the microphone to sing the “The Star-Spangled Banner”, in a recreation of Houston’s Super Bowl XXV performance in 1991.

The actor, who recently starred in the third season of Master of Nonelip syncs to Houston’s vocals (as it was confirmed by Clive Davis in September that Ackie did not provide vocals) in a soulless performance of the number (which is a disappointment given that Houston was dubbed The Prom Queen of Soul by TIME in 1987) .

Ackie refuses to play to the audience or the cameras, which the late singer was notorious for doing. In Houston’s real-life performance, only visible in retrospect through grainy, dull-colored copies, a smile crept upon her face with every note she aced as she often let her audience in on a little secret: singing is effortless for her.

But, rather than coming off as egotistical, Houston did it in a manner that let her audience know that she is honored to be in their presence. Yet, in Ackie’s portrayal, she’s stone-faced, as if she’s thinking about the notes that she isn’t even singing.

These details aside, this biopic breaks a cardinal rule, one that Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, House of Gucciand Pam & Tommy (all recent releases) followed: Ackie looks nothing like the woman she’s portraying. And, even though some of these projects received mixed reactions, their note-worthy transformations were a key carrier of good press.

Look at Rami Malek, who won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. Upon the release of the trailer, all people could talk about was the mind-blowing transformation the actor underwent to channel the “Under Pressure” sign, which was noted by Billboard, NME, and People, ahead of the movie’s release.

House of Gucci and Pam & Tommy followed in its footsteps, breaking headlines for the prosthetics Jared Leto and Lily James wore to channel Paolo Gucci and Pamela Anderson, respectively.

Then there’s Rocketman‘s Taron Egerton, who with the added intimacy of Elton John’s behind-the-scenes involvement, did the same, cultivating such an “exact” recreation that John mistook Egerton for himself when shown photographs from the production.

It’s silly to think the I Wanna Dance With Somebody creators didn’t take this into consideration while casting the role of Houston and going into production. Movies and television shows based on real subjects will always be polarizing in nature due to their often-exploitative nature, the power of established fanbases, and lack of creative space (*ahem* Andrew Domink’s Blonde hair), but one way to give potential viewers a reason to want to revisit into a story that’s already been told before is to stun them with the star transformation.

Instead, this biopic has been (rightfully) pelted with comments comparing its quality to a Saturday Night Live kitand others saying, “Do not get Whitney Houston off Shein” and “They could at least take a girl who looks like Whitney instead of Brandy.”

That being said, the mentioned clip is just a preview of what’s to come and Ackie’s full performance can’t be fully critiqued until it is viewed in its entirely (and this performance might make more sense in context). Nevertheless, the marketing thus far has left much to be desired.

With no original vocals or head-turning looks, and a performance that feels like cold soup, hopes are not high for this one.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody will be released theatrically on December 21, 2022.

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