‘The Bodyguard’ – ’92 Cinema Revue

The Bodyguard – #3 in the U.S. (Dec. 11-13)

All-Time Domestic $122,046,449 | All-Time International $289,000,000
All-Time Worldwide $411,046,449

The Bodyguard is a better soundtrack than a movie, brought down by a predictable plot and a lack of chemistry between the two leads.

Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner were at the peaks of their powers and popularity. Houston was coming off her albums Whitney and I’m Your Baby TonightWhile both had their share of mixed reactions (the latter especially), none could deny that Houston was a star. Known for her golden voice, Houston showed the world how golden it was with her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV the year prior. Houston was hesitant about going into the film world, but after offers came pouring in, she chose The Bodyguard

Costner had been looking to produce the film, a script by Lawrence Kasdan floating around since the 1980s with Steve McQueen and Diana Ross. Costner had won two Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Dances With Wolves, making him a true player in Hollywood. Playing the leads in the box office smash Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the critically-acclaimed JFK in 1991 did not hurt either. Both teamed together to bring The Bodyguard to the big screen, becoming a smash hit at the box office and not doing too bad at the Grammys in 1994, nearly two years after its debut (Grammy deadlines are weird, so it qualified for next year’s set of nominations). 

Rachel Marron (Houston) is a famous pop singer nominated for her star-studded turn in Queen of the Night. As she rises in fame, a stalker tries to assassinate Rachel at every turn. Former Secret Service agent Frank Farmer (Costner) is tasked with protecting her and her son from harm but is initially reluctant. Finally, Farmer agrees, and after an uphill battle to win Marron’s good graces, they begin to form a more romantic bond. Yet, Farmer must figure out if he can separate his emotions from his line of work despite Marron trying her best to keep them together no matter the cost.

Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner) begins his new line of work protecting Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston). Source: Warner Bros. Discovery

The Bodyguard is a predictable snoozefest that the two leads cannot save, leading to an absolute letdown with a killer soundtrack. Hearing how much of a cultural impact the film made, I was genuinely looking forward to something much more than what was sold over the years. Instead, it is a bland and generic thriller with a romance between two leads who barely have chemistry. However, I realized the legacy isn’t with the film; it’s with the music, which remains memorable.

Houston was a bonafide star for a reason her presence and her voice. Her acting here is okay, but a far cry from her turn in Waiting to Exhale, in which she nails her role. Houston on the soundtrack is absolutely gold. My mom had this soundtrack, so I heard it plenty growing up. “I Have Nothing” has been lingering in my head and playing on my Spotify rotation for a few days. It’s a beautiful and theatrical yearning for a lover to return to her, with Houston hitting all the notes. The transition beginning with the line “Don’t make me close one more door” is a marvel. I love this tune so much. She nails the sympathy and the emotion. Her cover of “I’m Every Woman” has been burnt into my brain since childhood. She makes it her own, even when giving a shout-out to the immortal Chaka Khan. It rips so hard as a cover. “Run to You” is dramatic, yet fits her want of needing Farmer to protect her. 

The signature “I Will Always Love You” is a perfect cover. No notes on this one; it’s a work of beauty. Houston takes Dolly Parton’s original classic about leaving a longtime working friendship and turning it into a song about always loving someone when they’ve gone. Costner reportedly told Houston to sing acapella at the start, then lean into her usual R&B sound after, and holy shit, it works out so well. The way it’s used in the film also makes sense, with Rachel having heard it and then dedicating it to him through her performance at the end of the film. The drum beat going into the final chorus never fails to get me. I think it affects me more today, seeing Houston’s funeral and how that part kicked in right as her coffin was out of the church. It is a heartwrenching and beautiful take on what is Parton’s masterwork. There’s a reason the soundtrack overshadowed the film, earning the Grammy for Album of the Year. It received more accolades than the actual film, and deservedly so.

The film is boring for most of it. I’m not expecting action sequences and globe-trotting romps, but very few things here are engaging. The stalker threat is a fun pursuit, but it is so apparent when the twists and turns happen that even the Lifetime Movie Network would blush at how painfully obvious the mystery and solution are. When one character was introduced with their whole background and connection to Rachel, I told myself, “It’s them, they are behind it.” And right before the third act, when the culprit was revealed, I was non-plussed by it all. Likewise, the chemistry between Costner and Houston is non-existent. Costner drawls on and is quite monotone, making their romance seem more one-sided. Houston is in it to win it, but Costner is not having it. It’s as much chemistry as peanut butter and pickles. Some people like peanut butter and pickles, but not me.

No one knows what a bodyguard does, either. Everyone gives Farmer the run-around or says he is too obsessed with wanting to protect Rachel and he is out of line. But that’s his job, it’s in his description, and he is doing the best he can. The most upsetting fact is how much in the dark they keep Rachel for most of the film about the stalker and the assassination attempts because of poor management and publicity. These people do not care about Rachel, but Farmer does, even if his emotions do not show it. It was frustrating to see all these characters, Rachel included, be so against Farmer wanting to ensure she and her son do not get harmed. It was so frustratingly stupid. Those looking to venture into it may find themselves feeling the same way. 

Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) belts the immortal “I Have Nothing” at a charity event. Source: Warner Bros. Discovery

The Bodyguard is a better soundtrack than a movie, brought down by a predictable plot and a lack of chemistry between the two leads. It’s a shame on the chemistry front because they turned out to be best friends. Costner also gave a beautiful remembrance at her funeral, telling stories of their connection and time together, being a part of her legendary career.

Despite my criticisms of the film, what has been left is Houston’s beautiful contribution to the music world that remains impactful. There are still kids and teens learning to sing and taking inspiration from her songs from this film, learning how much of a star Houston was, and understanding that she will never be forgotten, be it through her turns on the big screen and the small screen. Yet, Houston’s absence in this world is still felt, even ten years later.

Revue Rating: 2 out of 5 

The Soundtrack: 4.5 out of 5

Next time, I hope you can handle the truth with Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men.

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