Review of Sparkle

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Movie Reviews: "Sparkle"

-- Rating: PG-13 (mature content, domestic abuse, drug material, violence, language, and smoking)
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: August 17, 2012
Directed By: Salim Akil
Genre: Drama

A remake of a 1976 classic, "Sparkle" is a dramatic tale of a trio of singing sisters from the Motown era of music. Close in the beginning, the wear and tear of life in the spotlight gradually grinds their relationships down in a maddening downward spiral. The story is a familiar one, with the fame and fortune of stardom overshadowing the hidden dangers that creep along the way. The Anderson sisters want to achieve fame with their music, but their all-knowing mother is against the idea from the start and lets them know it every chance she gets.

Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle, a baby-faced, sweet singer. While terrifically talented herself, Sparkle allows her sisters to outshine her. She works as a backup vocalist, but viewers know she's a star from the start, as she secretly begins songwriting and developing her skills further. As the story progresses, the audience witnesses her struggles as she tries to balance fame, her boyfriend Stix, and her own personal demons.

With this being her first feature film, Sparks definitely impressed. She is a fitting choice for the role, offering a fresh face and darling personality. Sparks comes off with just the right amount of youth to keep the role fun but also throws in some sass where it is needed. For her first role in a movie, she's proven herself as a contender for more acting appearances in the future.

Carmen Ejogo plays as Tammy 'Sister' Anderson, Sparkle's sexier, flashier, and more confident sister who is hell-bent on making it big. Sister's life is marred by her abusive partner Satin, played by Mike Epps. Throughout the film the details of their toxic relationship slip into view more and more. Ejogo fills the role fantastically, showing a great range of emotion as well as sultry appeal. With this solid performance, it wouldn't be surprising if Ejogo will be seen a lot more around Hollywood.

Tika Sumpter completes the sister trio as Delores 'Dee' Anderson, the more reserved sister who has goals outside of stardom. While the character isn't particularly memorable compared to the outrageous Sister or wide-eyed Sparkle, she adds a nice mix to the character list.

The late music legend Whitney Houston plays Emma, the straight-laced mother of the girls with a murky past beneath the surface. While she comes off as a prim and proper goody two-shoes, it soon becomes clear that Emma is simply looking out for her family with fierce determination.

The role is filled wonderfully by Houston, who didn't need to rest on her talents as a singer to get by. In fact, her incredible vocal abilities were displayed only once in the film during a soulful yet haunting performance of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."

As the girls climb in their success together, Sparkle decides to step out from the shadow of her sisters and give it her all on stage in a packed venue. The ending with her singing solo has been done before, but it's a touching moment nonetheless.

A major strong point of this film is its casting. As mentioned earlier, each character fits their role terrifically. The cast is stacked with professionals who know what they're doing. It's a musical movie that cast musicians who happen to be able to act rather than the other way around. That is crucial to this movie and why it is enjoyable for audiences. The actors have the chops to deliver solid singing performances, something that is rare in movies nowadays.

The script is enjoyable, with witty lines and quotable phrases plentiful. While it does get serious at times, it's never too much to bear at once. It masterfully deals with heavy subjects, blending in ambition, laughter, love, and more to balm the wounds soon after.

Another notable feature of the film is the styling. The wardrobe is spot on for the time, as are the hair and makeup. It's an important touch that bulks up the feel and environment of the movie. It certainly brings the 1960s back into view fully, even if it's just for 116 minutes.

Overall, the film is a bit predictable, but boasts a great cast that can actually sing. Seeing Houston in her last film is certainly worth the trip, and Sparks deserves a nod her way for performing so well for her first venture into film. "Sparkle" would make a great movie for a girls' night out, with all the drama, glitz, and glamour you need.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars