The Trailer For The Whitney Houston Biopic Has Twitter Feeling Heated

“Naomi Ackie in the I Wanna Dance With Somebody trailer brought the hugest smile to my face...”

Sony / Tristar Pictures

Whitney Houston’s life is getting the Hollywood biopic treatment. The trailer for I Wanna Dance With Somebody dropped on Sept. 15 featuring Naomi Ackie as Houston and Stanley Tucci as legendary music producer and recording executive Clive Davis.

Sony Pictures describes the film, which comes out in December, as a “no-holds-barred portrait of the complex and multifaceted woman behind The Voice.” The trailer dives into Houston’s rise to fame, showing her getting her start when her mother Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie) prods her onstage at a local performance where Davis was present. The trailer shows the ups and downs of her early career, from first hearing her voice on the radio to contending with accusations that her music isn’t “Black enough.” Ackie as Houston responds to the latter with confidence, “Look, I don’t know how to sing Black, and I don’t know how to sing white either. I know how to sing.”

A voiceover in the trailer states Houston’s sole goal: “My dream is to sing what I wanna sing and be how I wanna be. Reach as big an audience as I can.” That mission statement is followed by images of Houston’s illustrious career — sold-out arenas, countless hits, and appearing on the world’s biggest stages.

Of course, Houston’s life story can’t be told without showing some of her hardships, namely her embattled relationship with Bobby Brown and her substance use disorder that eventually took her life in 2012. The trailer hints toward showing some aspects of her marriage to Brown, though it seems to shy away from her substance use in the film’s first look.

This is far from the first musical biopic to hit theaters in recent years, following successful renderings of Queen’s Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, which won Rami Malek an Academy Award, Elton John in Rocketman for which Taron Egerton also received many accolades, and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. But unlike Malek and Egerton, Ackie will not lend her singing voice to the film. Davis told USA Today that the film’s goal was to channel Houston’s essence but not replace her iconic singing voice. “We were very impressed that Whitney’s persona was being captured,” he said of Ackie’s audition. “The [singing] voice, of course, will be Whitney’s. When it came to Whitney, we just didn’t think anyone could capture her vocal genius, so it will be the Whitney voice in the film.”

I Wanna Dance With Somebody is written by Bohemian Rhapsody scribe Anthony McCarten, which has raised some eyebrows — both because he is a white man writing a Black woman’s story, and because of the critical response to the Queen biopic. Houston’s sister Pat Houston is producing the feature along with Davis, which gives some hope for an accurate portrayal of the late star.

Still, many people took to Twitter to share their concerns about the potential white-washing of Houston’s story and the general inability to fully capture the magic of a singular talent like Houston.

There were mixed feelings about the casting, with some commending Ackie for “capturing Houston’s essence” while others stated that Ackie looks nothing like Houston, though they remained hopeful about her presence onscreen.

Houston’s fans are choosing to focus on the near-perfect costuming that recreates many of her most iconic looks and the fact that the life story of one of the greatest singers in American history is coming to the screen.

Despite the excitement and love for the music icon, many on social media wished that Hollywood would “let her rest,” citing the fact that her life story has been mined for content many times before.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody hits theaters on Dec. 21, 2022.