Whitney Houston’s acting career was mostly concentrated during the mid-90s, a period when she starred in four movies – The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife and a TV production of Cinderella.
Unlike Cher, Whitney was happy to blur the lines between her movies and her musical day job – the three movies that were theatrically released all contained major hit singles for her. The Bodyguard gave her one of the defining hits of her career.
From the time she debuted with the glossy pop of Saving All My Love For You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Houston had wrestled with a clean cut public image that saw some accuse her of pandering to white audiences. With its adult themes and of-the-moment erotic thriller vibes, The Bodyguard could be viewed as an attempt to push the boundaries a little – Whitney fucks! Whitney says fuck!
It’s a serviceable effort – if rather overlong, and with a payoff that’s too convoluted to be truly satisfying. Whitney doesn’t have Cher’s easy naturalism as an actress, but she’s got charisma in spades and more than holds her own.
Weirdly, it’s the actual movie star who really lets this movie down. Kevin Costner was one of the most bankable actors of the 90s, but having watched several of his major films now, I can’t really figure out why. When we watched the disastrous Waterworld, his self-serious stoicism only added to the accidental comedy of that film. In The Bodyguard, he exudes the same energy, and it’s frankly boring to watch.
In fairness, he’s supposed to be playing a reserved character – as the titular bodyguard, he wrestles with a past failure and struggles with the blurred professional lines when Whitney goes from his client to his lover. But their chemistry is non-existant, which is deathly in a romantic thriller – and the fault doesn’t feel like it lies with Whitney.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other elements to enjoy in this movie, including some high-camp dialogue, a luridly trashy vibe and, of course, the soundtrack. Love it or loathe it, Whitney’s cover of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, is one of the great musical behemoths of the era, and it helped push The Bodyguard into the box office record books – only Aladdin made more money in 1992, and at one point it was the tenth highest-grossing film of all time.
In this week’s podcast, we deliver our full reactions and pick out some highlights – including some bewildering red herrings, a truly bizarre Oscars ceremony, the iconic feral gay bar scene and much more. Plus, we check in with our listeners, brainstorm some drinking games and pitch some sequel ideas to bring the Bodyguard back to the big screen in 2021 – sadly sans Whitney, for obvious reasons.
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Next week, we’ll be concluding our 2021 ‘pop star to movie star’ season with a slightly less successful vanity project from another pop cultural icon. Until then, happy listening and remember – never put a hit out on an immediate relative while stoned at the club. You’ll probably regret it in the morning…