Directed by: Salim Akil
Cast: Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Whitney Houston
Running Time: 1 hr 56 mins
Release Date: August 17, 2012
PLOT: A girl group forms in Detroit in the ’60s. They hope to be a Motown hit, but the chance of fame tests the family.
WHO’S IT FOR? People who want some melo with their drama. Sure, the Motown music has its moments, but you’d be better served to open up your vinyl collection and stay home.
They called it Sparkle because they were worried there wasn’t enough shine on this film. I’m sure of it. It oddly goes beyond that, as what looks like a family film, something that might be safe and sweet gives way to rapid-fire chaos. The melodrama that spews in the middle hour of this film isn’t tender, sweet, or poignant. It’s just aggravating and most of the time it’s even worse than that. It becomes laughable.
Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle. Her “American Idol” fame can’t really help her here. Sparkle is the type of girl who desperately wants to be a start, but has trained herself to stand outside of the spotlight, and let her sister Sister (Carmen Ejogo) have it. Yes, her sister’s name is Sister. Sister doesn’t want to sing, but she also doesn’t want to work very hard. So, when a manager named Stix (Luke) spots her, it’s time to make three sisters stars. I didn’t mention the third sister, because the film rarely does unless someone needs some sense talked into them. Dolores (Sumpter) is my favorite sister because she doesn’t need fame, and she doesn’t seem to need any of the drama that surrounds her family. Plus, she looks insanely hot when she eventually gets an afro. At the head of this family is Emma (Houston). I didn’t find Houston’s performance bad, but I also couldn’t figure it out. I wasn’t able to tell if Emma is someone who has totally, confidently pulled her life together. Or if she’s barely holding on. That’s the baggage this performance brings.
What is supposed to hold this movie together is the music. There are moments, but not enough. It honors some classic songs like “Feeling Good.” But then the movie makes terrible missteps like having our group, Sister and Her Sisters, cover “Something He Can Feel.” Sure, it was in the original 1976 version of this film (did you even know this was a remake?), but it’s also something most of us now know from the group En Vogue. En Vogue nails the song, Sister and Her Sisters don’t. At this point I should mention the middle hour of the film is dealing with Sister’s drug habit (which comes out of nowhere) and her no good, wife-beating husband Satin (Epps). For just a second I thought we could get some good commentary about how Satin is a comic who feels forced to degrade his own race for success, but instead we get terribly filmed domestic fights. It drags on and on, and it barely feels like we spend any time with Sparkle. Houston does sing once in the film with a song called “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” It doesn’t fit for the moment of the film, and it actually feels like the character Emma is showboating. But at least now we can also remember Houston for saying the line, “I never laid in my own vomit!”
At times it almost seems like this is the first Sparkle film in a trilogy. After all, it has all of the makings of an origin story. I don’t want this to be the case. Sparkle doesn’t do what its title says.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10