Starring Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke and Tike Sumpter. Written by Mara Brock Akil and Howard Rosenman. Directed by Salim Akil. Produced by Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil, Debra Martin Chase, Gaylyn Fraiche, Whitney Houston, T.D. Jakes, Avram Kaplan, Scott Putman, Howard Rosenman and Curtis Wallace.
Flashy choreography, colorful costumes and soul music are the essence of this remake of the 1976 musical, Sparkle. And what better setting to showcase it than the swanky Detroit venues where rhythm and blues music was born? You'll recognize some of your favorite places to go downtown including Cliff Bell's and The Fillmore, which set the stage for a historically rich drama that reveals an honest portrayal of show business in '60s Motown from the female perspective.
Sister (Ejogo) is an experienced performer who, after running away, has just returned home to her mother (Houston) and two sisters, Sparkle (Sparks) and Delores (Sumpter). She begins performing locally and with the help of her looks and Sparkle's beautifully written music, she gains some recognition. This causes tension between her and her mother who doesn't approve of the 'glamorous' lifestyle and soon escalates into the tearing apart of their family when all three of them begin performing together and Sparkle follows in Sister's footsteps toward fame.
While the film hits you with a large dose of melodrama and uses a lot of cheesy clichés (especially with the mother/daughter interactions), it effectively touches on some pretty real issues including drug use, alcoholism and sexual exploitation. In one scene, Sparkle and Delores are laughed at onstage for wearing "church dresses" and Sister saves the act when she appears next to them in a barely-there skin tight dress.
Ejogo gives a powerful performance as the story's wild child and adds dimension to what could've been a boring character, and Sparks is competent as the obedient daughter who eventually finds her own path. But it's Houston that ultimately steals the show as the stern church-going mother and belts out a solo that alone makes the movie worth watching. Having more experience than anyone else on the set, throughout the movie it feels like she's the glue that holds everything together and provides an underlying level of emotion that you can actually feel because this story reflects her real life and turmoil as a famous performer. —Rebecca Hillary