Singing Siblings Seek Fame in Remake of Musical Morality Play
Emma Anderson (Whitney Houston) didn’twant her daughters to follow in her footsteps by having babies as teenagers whilesquandering their future in the futile pursuit of celebrity and bad boys who wouldn’ttreat them like ladies. That’s why the overprotective single-mom feelsfortunate to be able to raise them in a middle-class suburb of Detroit where she keeps them on the straightand narrow path via a steady diet of Christianity and high expectations.
All three siblings have inheritedthe ability to sing from their mother, a blessing they put to good use for theLord in the church choir every Sunday. However, each girl also has her owndistinctive personality yearning to express itself.
Brainy Dolores (Tika Sumpter) has her mind set on attending MeharrySchool of Medicine. Self-effacing Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is a giftedcomposer who’s too shy to perform any of her heartfelt ballads in public. But seductiveSister (Carmen Ejogo) is just the opposite, being a confident extrovert who cravesthe limelight and the attention of men.
Consequently,it’s no surprise that Sister might rebel and run away from home, rather thanabide by her mother’s restrictive house rules. She’s only been back in town fortwo months, but already has a couple of suitors competing for her hand, Levi(Omari Hardwick), a penniless, perfect gentleman, and Satin (Mike Epps), a flashy,silky smooth operator.
GivenSister’s materialistic nature, it’s easy to guess that that she would opt toentertain the overtures of the latter, a misogynist with a dark side yet toreveal itself. Meanwhile, Sparkle starts dating Stix (Derek Luke) whoencourages the talented sisters to form a trio and take a shot at superstardom.
Sounfolds Sparkle, a modern morality play with a sobering message made all themore telling by serving as Whitney Houston’s cinematic farewell. Several of thelate pop diva’s lines in the movie induce goose bumps, such as when she matter offactly asks, “Was my life not enough of a cautionary tale for you?”
Thefilm features standout performances by Whitney and Carmen Ejogo, with DerekLuke and Mike Epps appearing at their best as well. Jordin Sparks certainlyholds her own when called upon to sing, but she comes across in this big screendebut as not quite ready to handle a title role, at least acting-wise.
Writtenand directed by the husband-wife team of Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil,respectively, Sparkle is very loosely based on the 1976 musical of the samename, with the point of departure, the timeline, plot developments, and thescore being tweaked for the overhaul, and all for the better. A must-see,between Whitney’s sentimental Swan Song and Carmen’s coming out party.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, drug use, smoking, mature themes and domestic abuse.
Running time: 116 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures
To see a trailer for Sparkle: