Posted by Hannah Buchdahl aka Mainstream Chick on August 18, 2012
Sparkle falls far short of the total package that is Dreamgirls. But the music is still infectious, fun, and occasionally even powerful enough to make you forgive and forget the gaping holes in story and character development. In other words, keep your expectations in check. And if you’re on the fence, wait for the rental.
Former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks plays the title character, Sparkle, an aspiring singer-songwriter who has the potential to be a star, if she can overcome a whole lot of family drama.
The movie has some solid performances. Carmen Ejogo is captivating as Sparkle’s talented but reckless sister, “Sister.” And Tika Sumpter makes the most of her supporting role as Dolores, a sassy gal who’s chasing her own dream of attending medical school. Together, they are “Sister and her Sisters”, a dynamic trio that’s ready-made for 1960s Motown. Derek Luke – who I absolutely adored in the 2002 film Antwone Fisher – provides the romantic spark as the group’s manager, and Sparkle’s love interest.
And then of course – there’s Whitney. It’s really, really, really hard to watch this movie and separate the late Whitney Houston from her character Emma, a church-going, god-fearing, strict single mother who does not want her girls mixed up in the music business. Exactly why – is never made clear. And that’s the movie’s biggest flaw.
While several audience members literally cheered Whitney’s breakout number in the film – a soulful performance of “Eye on the Sparrow” – I personally have a hard time believing that Sparkle would have marked any real comeback. The phenomenal talent she exuded in her previous movies, including The Bodyguard and The Preacher’s Wife, just wasn’t there. Instead, as the movie dabbles in the dangers of domestic violence and drug abuse, you can’t help but draw parallels, and lament would could and should have been. I actually think there are other actresses who could have elevated the role of Emma. But there’s no denying that the curiosity factor will lure some folks to the theater who may have otherwise taken a pass on Sparkle.
Back to the movie itself – Jordin Sparks was better than I expected. She doesn’t reach the heights (by any means) of Idol-alum Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. But she- and Sparkle – easily surpass the cinematic train-wreck that was From Justin to Kelly! And if you like Motown music, gospel music, just about any music, then consider seeing Sparkle just for the fun of it. And yes, maybe even just to pay some final respects to Whitney.
P.S. Sparkle is a remake of a 1976 movie starring Irene Cara (of Fame fame). So consider adding that to your Netflix queue for a time-warpin’ double-feature. Whether you see one or the other or both – or neither – let us know what YOU think. That’s what the comments box is there for. We love feedback!