About The Movie:
Set in the late '60s, Sparkle tells the story of three sisters from middle-class Detroit who form a girl group sort of like the Supremes. They're astoundingly talented, they want to be famous, and at one point they get their shot at a major deal with Columbia Records. But all sorts of things keep getting in the way, like an abusive, coke-sniffing celebrity boyfriend — what happens to him will leave your jaw on the floor — and, more than that, their oppressively uptight church-lady mother, played with teasing confidence and force by Whitney Houston in her final screen role.
The movie is a remake of the 1976 ersatz-Supremes Hollywood fable that starred Irene Cara, and the earlier film's setting — the late '50s and early '60s — made sense.
What Is Good About The Movie:
Whitney Houston's performance proves that this could have been the first step not merely in a comeback but in a major re-invention. She had the instincts of a superb character actress.
It is impossible to watch this movie and not relate its story to the life of Whitney Houston. Whitney is not technically the star of the movie, but her rendition of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” cemented her prescence. Though her vocal stamina was considerably diminished, her rendition of that gospel standard gives “Sparkle” much of its heart.
The three sisters are each cut from a very different cloth. The quietly ambitious Sparkle, a brilliant songwriter, who proves to be a lot like Irene Cara — that is, she's pretty in a slightly pained way and wholesomely sincere to the point of being a bit boring. The whippersnapper Dolores (Tika Sumpter) mostly stays in the background, except when she explodes in moments of vengeful high dudgeon. And then there's the sister known, literally, as Sister, who's the star of the group and is played by the ravishingly sexy and accomplished British actress Carmen Ejogo. The truth is that whenever Sister is on screen, we're a little unsure why the movie is named after anyone else.
Among the men hovering around the trio, by far the most developed character is Sister’s abusive boyfriend and future husband, Satin (Mike Epps), a boozing, coke-snorting stand-up comic whose routines are put-downs of black people. As the Black Power movement gathers force, audiences are beginning to turn on him, and he takes his frustration and fury out on Sister, who comes to rehearsals with black eyes and in one scene is beaten with a belt. Satin’s dramatic counterweight is Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle’s on-again, off-again boyfriend.
What Is Bad About The Movie:
Jordan Sparks is not much of an actress. Or at least her character, as conceived, is so innocent that she doesn’t seem fully aware of the melodramas swirling around her. But @ the end of the movie, during her solo concert debut with a full gospel choir, to a packed house, she delivers.
The trouble with Sparkle isn't that it's overwrought (that's what's sometimes fun about it). It's that everything in the movie is derivative and third-hand: a copy of a copy. Though I can't remember the original I saw as a child this movie felt as if it has been fed through a strainer, with bits and pieces squeezed out of a dozen other, better movies (What's Love Got to Do With It, Lady Sings the Blues, and Dreamgirls, to name just a few).