Luther: Never Too Much Sings to the Heart [Sundance Review]

Luther: Never Too Much still of Luther Vandross.

Luther: Never Too Much shows the passion, innocence, and dedication Luther put into his craft. 

Luther: Never Too Much, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a musical documentary delight. It charts one of the brightest stars’ rise in music. With etheric highs and gut-wrenching lows, the documentary talks about Luther’s life in the music industry. The film provides detailed information about his come-up for those who know little about him. In addition, the documentary doesn’t shy away from Luther’s struggles as a big Black man. Keep a phone and tissues handy watching Luther: Never Too Much—one to download rediscovered tracks and the other to wipe tears.  

Directed by Dawn PorterLuther: Never Too Much has a 101-minute runtime. Yet it feels too brief, making viewers crave more. It begins with Vandross rehearsing “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” on stage in preparation for a performance. Then, it transitions mid-song to a packed theater as Vandross continues belting out one of his many iconic songs. Then, the documentary travels back to Luther’s childhood in Harlem. 

Luther: Never Too Much Gives Iconic Predecessors Their Due

Luther: Never Too Much photo of director Dawn Porter.
Dawn Porter, director of Luther: Never Too Much, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

One of the best openings to a documentary, it demonstrates Luther’s childhood obsession with Black women singers of the time. So, the movie gives singers like Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, and Dionne Warwick the respect they deserve. It includes clips from their performances, letting viewers connect with what moved Luther’s joy and imagination. With interviews from musical friends he’s known since he was a kid, Fonzi Thornton, Robin Clark, and Carlos Alomar, Luther becomes more. Those closest to him describe both him and his inspirations, building wonder at how emotionally fulfilling these supreme voices are and always will be. It’s even better when an icon inspires a future icon. Enter Luther Vandross. 

A Detailed Exploration of Luther Vandross’ Career Roots

There is a lot that none except avid fans would know. From Luther and his friends’ appearances on Sesame Street to jingles before Luther fully pursued his music career, Luther: Never Too Much enlightens the world about the journey of a beloved artist. Luther Vandross was more than a singer. He was a producer, arranger, and composer contributing to countless artists’ musical careers. To go from admiring artists to working with Roberta Flack and David Bowie and covering Dionne Warwick’s “A House Is Not a Home” is inspirational. Luther: Never Too Much shows the passion, innocence, and dedication Luther put into his craft. 

A Man Who Stands a Cut Above

Luther: Never Too Much still of Luther Vandross.
Luther Vandross appears in Luther: Never Too Much by Dawn Porter,an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Matthew Rolston.

Few celebrities who gain fame of any degree maintain connections with their childhood friends. The direction weaves the story through clips of Luther and his friends performing. Then it transitions between those and his friends in a studio backdrop. Yet there is such heartache as the documentary shows the industry’s fatphobia. Interviewers’ preoccupation with his weight detracts from his multiple hit albums. On top of that, the film touches on his continuous struggles to get paid his due in the industry and receive support comparable to his white peers. 

Luther: Never Too Much transitions from discussing Luther Vandross’ inspirations to his working with them to other artists—like Mariah Carey and Jamie Foxx—talking about him similarly. The joy of music and artistry comes full circle, but Luther Vandross always shines that much brighter because he was light, a solace for many with songs that thrilled and dazzled listeners. Luther: Never Too Much focuses on music and love, like the legend himself. 

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