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DIRECTOR: Salim Akil
CAST: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Derek Luke, Mike Epps
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 56min
A REMAKE of the 1976 movie starring Irene Cara, the new Sparkle has American Idols winner Jordin Sparks in the lead role.
The film is a coming-of-age offering that revolves around young Sparkle and her family – mom, Emma (Whitney Houston) and sisters Delores (Tika Sumpter) and Sister (Carmen Ejogo).
Set in the 1960s Motown era, a time when the music industry was abuzz with every man and his dog trying to get a record deal, we journey with the young Sparkle who also dreams of a career in music.
Overcoming the biggest obstacle – their mother, who once was a famous recording artist and now doesn’t want her daughters “tainted” by the industry – the sisters duck and dive and gig about town and are eventually spotted by a talent scout.
The trio eventually form a girl group. Their career quickly snowballs, even landing them the possibility of a record deal with a highly respected company.
But the road towards stardom is littered with obstacles, including drugs and tricky romantic relations – all of which could derail this close-knit family. Can the family survive all these developments? Will Sparkle reach her goal of being a respected musician?
The success of Sparkle lies partly in its well penned script. Stories about the underdog fighting to make his (in this case, her) dream a reality are always a winner because we all have a dream we’d like to be realised.
So seeing someone else get their chance – even if it’s only a movie – provides some sought of escapist connection with the character.
Complementing the performances in the movie are the cinematography (Anastas N Michos) and costume design (Ruth E Carter) which are captured and presented in such a way as to add a sense of texture and authenticity to the era the movie is set in.
The entire cast do an excellent job performing their characters with aplomb. Sparks really gets into the skin of her character. Houston’s role is far from her Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale days, with her playing more of a background role, but a powerful performance none the less. Casting Sparks and Houston in their roles was almost art imitating life compared to their real-life journeys to stardom.
Supporting acts Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Derek Luke and Mike Epps deserve kudos for their performances, with each getting to the guts of their characters. It was interesting to see Epps playing a very aggro role, as opposed to his usual comedic characters.
With Sparkle being a drama that hinges itself on the music industry, it was important that the music was as good as the script and the acting – and this has been achieved.
Versions of songs like Hooked on Your Love and Something He Can Feel (performed by Aretha Franklin in the original film, and later made famous by En Vogue in the 1990s) are performed excellently.
Nice additions are songs written by the King of R&B, R Kelly, specifically for Sparkle (2012) – so you know it’s going to be good old-school flavour.
One doesn’t get to hear much of Houston, except for a moving rendition of the gospel His Eye is on the Sparrow. But the good news is she features on the soundtrack, including in a duet with Sparks.
Considering this was Houston’s last film – which she also executively produced – before she died, I’d say it’s one she’ll be remembered for.