Directed by Salim Akil
Amidst the abundance of extended musical performances and awkward Whitney Houston tribute material included with the Blu-Ray release of Sparkle, there is a supplement about the amount of time and effort it took to get this unnecessary remake to the big screen. Apparently, it was in the works over a decade ago, with Aaliyah attached to play the titular Sparkle. When that fell apart — for obvious reasons — the project was shelved indefinitely, with producer Debra Martin Chase doing her lunch date/cocktail party rounds to try and network it all back into production. And while everyone likes a good underdog story, the reality is that it might have been best if Chase either moved on to another project or found a competent screenwriter to make her pipe dream more than a bad Television melodrama. Exacerbating the limitations in quality is the fact that this tale of three sisters thrust into the music industry in the mid-'60s manages to reassert the dominant cultural message of ruthless ambition or "dreams," leading to a form of success glibly defined by a "happily ever after" construct. Although, within this is an admonition, guiding the Judeo-Christian morality of reaching for the stars, when the oldest, most successful sister (Carmen Ejogo) runs down the path of drug addiction and domestic abuse with boyfriend/manager Satin (Mike Epps), which initially tears the family, and their career, apart. Their mother, Emma (Whitney Houston), warns Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) not to follow in her sister's footsteps, using an endless array of prosaic, declaratory statements reminiscent of daytime soap operas, but is unable to keep her daughter from following her heart. Several poorly choreographed and filmed musical numbers bulk up the runtime, while Sparkle learns that being a good Christian girl and staying true to her ideals, when not exploiting the fame and, resultantly, the health and well being of her older sister, leads to rainbows and unicorns, reaffirming not only American delusions, but also the assertion that only morally rigid ciphers deserve happiness. It's all entirely grotesque, much like the bad overacting and atrocious cinematography, but it's strangely appropriate material for an American Idol winner. And, sadly, it's extremely unlikely that this would have had a theatrical release were it not for Houston's tragic passing, adding some exploitation layering to the limited character complexities, which mirror the vulgar leveraging of human life for financial gain within the film. Also included with the Blu-Ray is a commentary track with director Salim Akil, who sounds like he's either trying to stretch out five minutes of discussion into two hours or is on some experimental, mind-altering drugs.
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