A Look at Whitney Houston's Short, But Successful Film Career

Posted 11:44 PM February 11th, 2012 by Senh Duong
Whitney Houston

I can’t say I was shocked by Whitney Houston’s death. I was when I first saw the headlines, but who isn’t initially. With her reported daily drug use and erratic behavior in recent years, it seems like it was just a matter of time. I liked her when I was little. I didn’t worship her like I worshiped Jackie Chan, but she had a clean image and, it goes without saying, an amazing voice. I was rooting for her comeback in 2009, but it just didn’t fully materialize despite a successful album.

When she left the music world in the early 90's and went into movies, I’m surprised to learn that her films had actually been commercially successful.

“The Bodyguard,” her first foray into movies which co-starred Kevin Costner, was a huge hit in 1992, grossing $129M at the box office. Houston played a superstar musician who hired a former Secret Service agent to protect her from stalkers and death threats. Critics didn’t like it as much as the audience though, it only scored 38% on the Tomatometer. The soundtrack received high marks - the story and romance, not so much.

Houston scored another hit in 1995 with “Waiting to Exhale,” the film adaptation of Terry McMillan’s novel about four African-American women dealing with love and life. The film also stars Angela Bassett. It racked up a surprising $67M at the box office. Critics were mixed. The film scored 52% on the Tomatometer. It’s at least an improvement over “The Bodyguard.”

She finally scored a Fresh movie the following year with Penny Marshall’s “The Preacher’s Wife,” which co-stars Denzel Washington. Houston played the title character whose marriage to a preacher is on the rocks. Washington is an angel sent down to Earth to patch everything up. It scored a decent 63% on the Tomatometer. It also hauled in $48M at the box office, giving her three consecutive hits.

As a film actress, she kinda stopped there. She was doing pretty well with well-chosen roles that took advantage of her musical background, scoring one hit after another. With each successive film, the reviews had gotten better. I wonder why shed stopped. Well, actually, I don’t. She got into drugs. And drugs kill, no matter how big a star you are.

That’s too bad. She could have been a major movie star had she continued.

Houston does have a film currently in post-production and slated to be released sometime this year called “Sparkle.” “American Idol” winner Jordan Sparks co-stars. It’s about a singing group that became successful and then has to deal with fame and drugs. Again, a well-chosen role that takes advantage of her background. Let's hope it's a good one that would give her a proper send-off.

R.I.P. Whitney Houston.

Update: "Sparkle" is a remake of a 70's film. Sony will release the film on August 17th.

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Senh created and operated Rotten Tomatoes out of his apartment at one point before coming together with friends to turn it into a real company. He's back to doing what he loves with Movies With Butter.

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