Despite being a highly anticipated film about one of the best and most beloved singers of all time, the new biopic from the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Bohemian Rhapsody is getting negative reviews from most critics who have seen it. It is currently sitting at 44% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes.
While Bohemian Rhapsody downplayed Freddy Mercury's sexuality, Houston's relationship with Robyn Crawford is shown here. Unfortunately, like most other plots in the movie, Houston's bisexuality and queer relationship don't get enough screen time once the first act ends.
According to Vanity Fair, the movie drops plots as quickly as it introduces them (Houston's sexuality included). The publication's review notes that the movie "whizzes through the years, skating blithely over The Bodyguard, never once mentioning Waiting to Exhale, and barely addressing Houston's drug use until it's become the problem that will destroy her."
Deadline agreed, saying "details of the past, present, and future are crammed into the same scene without attaching meaning to any of it. It makes I Wanna Dance With Somebody feel like a series of vignettes about Houston instead of a complete narrative. There's no theme, no message, and nothing to keep the audience engaged during the viewing experience."
While Empire's Kelechi Ehenulo praised Naomi Ackie's performance, she also called it a "Wikipedia-style exploration" with "surface-level execution" that means Houston's "story is not quite done justice."
Many of the reviews specifically pointed out how Houston's sexuality was introduced in the film, then not explored. As The AV Club wrote, "Houston's sexuality, one of the most interesting aspects of this story, is abandoned on the wayside as the film progresses, and the audience is left wondering what her long-time relationship with Crawford meant."
However, Variety's Owen Gleiberman did like the film, calling it "the kind of lavishly impassioned all-stops-out biopic you either give into or you don't -- and if you do, you may find yourself getting so emotional, baby."
To judge for yourself, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody opens December 23 in theaters.