Photos By Alicia Gbur/Copyright 2012 Stage 6 Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Whitney Houston‘s final performance in SPARKLE is a memorable one; filled with grit, fortitude and heart. Knowing what the iconic singer experienced throughout her life with drug addiction and abuse, this was a story that surely hit close to home. SPARKLE is a revamped version of the 1976 original film about three sisters, Delores (Tika Sumpter), Sister (CarmenEjogo) and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) who form a girl group in 1968 during the height of Motown Music. With every ‘seeking fame’ story, there are always the obstacles of rejection, money and drugs. In this case, the primary challenge is the mother, played by Houston. Throughout the film, she is an overbearing cloud, restricting her daughters from following their dreams in an attempt to keep them closer to Jesus and save them from repeating her own mistakes. Nevertheless, the sisters sing on in hopes of being the next Diana Ross and The Supremes. This ‘almost famous’ tale is a ‘feel good’ movie for the year, supported by a strong cast and great music.
SPARKLE is an ode to the original story by Joel Schumacher, modified to the music, fashion, lingo and historical affects of the 1960s with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Beatles, etc. The city has been changed to Detroit, the home of “Hit Factory” Motown, and the original struggling single parent is now an upper middle class family doing very well. But the theme still remains; empowerment and wish fulfillment. This time around, the film was directed by Salim Akil (Jumping the Broom) and written by Mara Brock Akil (“The Game,” “Girlfriends”). At times, the dialogue was a bit cheesy and, although there was talk of the civil rights riots close by, they steered away from heavy violence to keep the PG-13 rating. Surely, the SPARKLE soundtrack will have high downloading numbers with its multiple catchy tunes. The best being the Supreme/Motown-esque style song, “Something He Can Feel” composed by Curtis Mayfield for the original movie. Salaam Remi was the film’s music composer and R. Kelly acted as executive music consultant.
The film opens in a smoky nightclub with Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) accompanying her sister, played by Carmen Ejogo (I, Alex Cross, Pride and Glory), who seduces the audience with her sultry vocals. Immediately you fall for Ejogo’s character. She’s got the looks, the talent and an undeniable spirit. Ejogo’s performance throughout is impressive, showing her range in drama with raw emotion as her character falls hard to drug addiction. Jordin Sparks, who is best known for winning American Idol Season 6, had a fine acting debut, despite her voice being stronger than her acting. Tika Sumpter (What’s Your Number?, “Gossip Girl”) played the third sister and was certainly the comic relief with a few funny lines. Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Captain America: The First Avenger) keeps the girls together for as long as he can in the role of their good natured manager, Stix. And the one you will love to hate is Mike Epps (Jumping the Broom, Friday After Next) bad boy character. He does a fantastic job playing despicable. By the way; if you think CeeLo Green was a lead character, the movie posters misled you. “The Voice” judge has one line at the beginning of the film.
The best is left for last: Whitney Houston. While it’s usually the norm to praise one’s performance after they have passed, whether they were good or not, this acclaim is well deserved and true through and through. She does not upstage the rest of the cast, but rather blends in nicely. It was as if Houston took her life experiences with motherhood, fame, addiction and abuse and injected each beautiful and painful memory into a spirited performance. Towards the end of the film, we are honored with a chilling song sung by Houston.
SPARKLE, is not only a tribute to one of the greatest living singers, but an uplifting story for everyone to see.
By Pamela Price