Warner Bros. // 1992 // 129 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 26th, 2012
"I don't trust discipline. I know, at that crucial moment, I'd cop out." -- Rachel
It's tough to watch The Bodyguard so soon after Whitney Houston's passing. Here she proved to the world that she was a true star, someone able to bring in massive audiences on the strength of her own talent. Perhaps Whitney's acting didn't carry the movie, but her voice certainly proved cinematic enough to break all kinds of records at the box office and on the Billboard charts. This is not a great movie, but it works whenever Houston picks up the microphone and does what she does best. When she belts it out, the whole world falls in love with her...including Kevin Costner.
It's a simple story about a singer/actress (Whitney Houston, Waiting to Exhale) whose life is being threatened in the form of mysterious notes. Her management team hires a bodyguard (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves), who forces the star to take a hard look at her security. Of course, as the stakes rise, so do their feelings for one another. Can he save her, at the moment of truth, when she attends the Oscars?
Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Bodyguard way back in 1975, as a star vehicle for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross, but every studio was too chicken to move forward with it. Some time later, a Ryan O'Neal/Diana Ross pairing was considered, but that too was scrapped when the two stars began dating in real life. Over the years, it morphed several more times, with Pat Benatar, Olivia Newton-John, Madonna, Joan Jett, Deborah Harry, Janet Jackson, Terri Nunn, Kim Carnes, and Dolly Parton all considered. The project was rejected no less that sixty-seven times.
Kevin Costner took a shine to the story in the early '90s, and put in a bid to produce it. Through Costner's clout as a bankable star (who had not yet made WaterWorld), the studios gave the project a green light, and even allowed a year's delay while waiting for Whitney Houston's schedule to open up. Costner demanded a true pop diva for the lead, and he felt Houston had the right vibe to be "Diana Ross" to his "Steve McQueen." They filmed Kasdan's original script, with only minor tweaks to update the time period, and debuted 17 years after it was written.
Critics were quick to pan The Bodyguard for its wooden performances and clunky dialogue. Houston had never acted before and it showed, with flat line readings and awkward delivery. The producers did her no favors by telling their star not to get acting lessons since they wanted to capture her natural persona. Costner turned in a decent enough performance, but the plot was quite hackneyed and more than a little predictable. By changing very little from its mid-'70s origins, the experience felt old fashioned and tame. It didn't seem like film was going to go anywhere, proven out by test audiences who didn't like it. But the studio went ahead and released it, bracing for the worst.
What nobody banked on was the power of Whitney Houston's music to win over a massive audience. Even in scenes that suffered from her tinny line delivery, the emotions pushed through with the right songs placed in the right moments. Houston's acting may have been a far cry from Oscar-worthy, but her singing was glorious and golden. People began to buy the romance, and the climactic moments set to "I Will Always Love You" still work to this day, thanks to this iconic vocal performance. The Bodyguard was pure pop brilliance, and audiences ate it up with sheer abandon, ignoring all the critics. I myself lined up in 1992 to see the film, and managed to tear up when Whitney ran out of the plane to kiss Kevin Costner. The movie works because we desperately want to believe these two people can love each other despite all their differences.
The Bodyguard (Blu-ray) feels slapped together in order to capitalize on the loss of Whitney Houston. What we have is the 10th Anniversary DVD package hastily upconverted to HD. The 1.85:1/1080p high definition transfer looks only a touch better than what we saw on DVD, with colors that are rendered well, and a small uptick in visual clarity. The soft gauzy look to the film was likely by design and faithful to the era in which it was produced. The DTS-HD 5.1 Surround mix only translates to crisper dialogue, but it doesn't add much to the experience.
All of the bonus features are ported over from the previous DVD release: a 2004 making-of documentary featuring interviews with Costner, director Mick Jackson, writer Lawerence Kasdan, and music producer David Foster. Whitney Houston shows up in vintage on-set interviews from 1991, which are quick and fluffy. We also get a vintage music video for "I Will Always Love You" as well as the original trailer. This isn't a quantum leap to merit an upgrade.
The Bodyguard is a sappy film, but one whose musical numbers sound awesome. Despite lack of new content, fans are gonna snap this one up based solely on the fantastic vocal stylings of Whitney Houston who is at the top of her game.
Guilty of making us always love Whitney.
Review content copyright © 2012 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Video