Published Aug 16, 2012Sparkle – not to be confused as an indirect prequel to Glitter – is the remake to the 1976 film of the same name. Jumping The Broom director Salim Akil and writer wife Mara Brock Akil tackle the gruelling task of updating Joel Schumacher's original story, which is full of overtly racist archetypes, only to deliver a slightly more PC, "paint by numbers" musical biopic that will only be remembered for the late Whitney Houston's final performance onscreen.
Taking place in Detroit in 1968, 19-year-old church-going Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is a shy, albeit aspiring, songwriter who dreams of being a star, while also begging her older, beautiful, gold-digging sister named (wait for it) Sister (Carmen Ejogo) to bring her songs to life in seedy bars.
Sparkle's prayers are answered when a handsome music manager named Stix (Derek Luke) turns Sparkle, Sister and their other sister, Dolores (a scene-stealing Tika Sumpter), into a singing group sensation. Although things take a predictable turn for the worse when Sister falls for rich, coked-out, abusive TV personality Satin (Mike Epps) and the group and family slowly fall apart.
The Akils' reimagining of Sparkle is very similar to the original yet features a much more updated take on its cast and characters, which is the film's greatest achievement and detriment. Just like the original, Sparkle features overwrought dramatic performances, a rendition of "Something He Can Feel" and two biracial lead actresses relying on viewers' suspension of disbelief in order to believe they're a 100-percent African-American.
Also like the 1976 version, Sparkle is very loosely based upon the Supremes, yet unlike the superior musical drama The Five Heartbeats, it fails to provide an authentic amalgamation of events from the Motown era and feels far too modern to be taken seriously.
Luckily, the movie steers away from the racist overtones in the original and it should also be noted that Whitney Houston does surprisingly well in the little screen time she has as Emma, the sassy, religious, overprotective mother of the sisters. Unfortunately, Houston plays a failed singer whose alcoholism destroyed her career and because of that, the film becomes more of an unintentional cautionary tale than the Lifetime movie it unknowingly strives to be.
Like a cubic zirconia, the film "sparkles" at first then quickly loses its glamour very early on. It's unfortunate that Whitney Houston's untimely death spawned an over-hyped theatrical release for this, as it isn't worthy of being the "swan song" she so rightfully deserved. (Sony)