Before a late-career revival as a Twitter powerhouse, Dionne Warwick cultivated a music career that changed the game for Black people in America. Her influence as a crossover artist is brought to light in the new documentary, “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over.”
The film’s directors David Heilbroner and Dave Wooley admiringly chart Warwick’s musical ascension from childhood gospel singer to multiple Grammy Award winner. But doing justice to a six-decade career in 95 minutes proves challenging.
As the film winds down, Warwick’s experiences are presented like footnotes on a page: a little about how she scolded Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur for their misogynist lyrics, a little less about her cousin Whitney Houston’s death and a lot less about her involvement in The Psychic Friends Network.
Throughout, Warwick offers amusing and amused commentary on her long history. Alongside Bill Clinton and Elton John, she looks back on her AIDS activism in the 1980s, when other stars stayed silent about the virus. Another part shows her holding up her 1963 record, “This Empty Place,” which portrayed her as a white woman on the cover in France. Hilariously, she cackles and says, “Have I changed?”
Overall, “Don’t Make Me Over” gets the job done, albeit in a formulaic, straightforward fashion. But there’s pure joy in just seeing Warwick radiate the kind of charisma and grit you’d hope for from a living legend who has always stayed true to herself. In this ordinary film about her extraordinary life, it’s clear she’s not stopping now.
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.