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Sparkle is a timeless story of the bonds of family, the trials of success and the power of music. In her feature film debut, “American Idol” sensation Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle, a young woman whose big dreams seem almost impossible. She’s been warned against the pitfalls of the music industry by her protective mother (Whitney Houston), yet encouraged by the handsome and ambitious Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle forms a trio with her sisters (Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo). Together, they perform the soul-stirring songs that Sparkle pens. But as their fame grows, so does the risk of jealousy, self-doubt and insidious temptation. This sweeping drama is brought to life with a powerful cast including Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick and CeeLo Green.
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This is a movie about making dreams reality no matter how many obstacles. And it's also a movie about relationships - good and bad, broken and restored. I haven't seen the original Sparkle; if I did I'm sure I would have compared the two. I really liked this version. The acting was good and I enjoyed the music. I didn't know Tamela Mann (Christian music artist and Cora in Tyler Perry's "Meet the Brown's") had a role. It was nice to see her. She delivered one of my favorite lines: "I tells the truth. It's in my contract as your friend."
Most favorite line: "It's really hard to follow your dreams, but you have to because you just might write a song that'll save someone's life."
Favorite Character: Dolores (Tika Sumpter) - She was not afraid to speak her mind. I loved her spunk.
Favorite Scene: At the dinner table
One of the reasons I purchase DVDs is for the special features which often shed so much more light on a production than comes through in viewing. I appreciated that the story was advanced from the late 50's to the late 60's when there was so much more going on where our civil rights were concerned. I thought all the performances were stellar and I also enjoyed the changes in the plot. It was also a wonderful final performance for Whitney but wasn't all about her which I was concerned that it would be. For those who are as connected to original as I am, i am very please to say that this is a very worthy remake of the original; keeping all the important issues in tact and giving the women in the story a lot more power than the original.
"Sparkle" is about a girl group, three sisters (and even though The Emotions, Love Unlimited and The Pointer Sisters do actually feature sisters in a girl group......it is The Supremes that come to mind when you see 3 female singers together). It is set in inner city America that could be Chicago or it could be Detroit, just like The Supremes came from Detroit. Beyond the normal struggles of groups, girls in particular but not specifically, the similarities don't go too much further than that.
Diana Ross is neither Deena Jones ("Dreamgirls") nor Sister of The Sisters ("Sparkle"). What is more commonplace is the support system and personalities which underscore why a marywilson is as generic, as it comes. Be it "Sparkle" or "Dreamgirls", the background singers never much arise higher than the personality of a marywilson. Who? Right. Marywilson. An ordinary background singer with a rather uninteresting backstory.
The original "Sparkle" was embraced as an underground hit by the urban/black community. Though Aretha Franklin was commissioned to record the soundtrack, Lonette McKee and Irene Cara actually performed the music in the movie. Though Lonette is no match for Aretha, she has a unique vocal quality that many, myself included, that actually felt cheated that her versions of the songs were never released. Irene Cara is not only a Grammy nominated singer, but, also won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, an Image Award amongst others. So while Aretha provided a Gold album in her versions of the "Sparkle" songs, it was perplexing why the producers did not see the marquee value in both Lonette McKee and Irene Cara having their versions released.
Fast forward to the 2012 film which reportedly was over a decade in the making, the cast is comparative to the original cast, Carmen Ejogo, in the role of "sister" walked away with the biggest buzz. With hardly any competition in the marketplace, the slate was cleared for this updated version to do solid box office...especially in light of Whitney's tragic transitioning. Unfortunately, the box office proved underwhelming. Since it reportedly only cost below $15 million, the road to profitability is a long and winding one......time will tell if it endures as a DVD rental title and/or cable favorite.
This 2012 version does not distract nor add to "Sparkle"'s appeal. However, it is worth acknowledging Whitney's dedication and determination to get this version "green lit". It at least introduces the story to a new, younger audience. And most of all, for Whitney fans, it gives us one more moment with her enormous talent. In the original, Mary Alice, a truly underrated wonder of an actress, does not sing....it is more of a dramatic role of a singing mother raising her daughters during their pubescent teen years. That element still remains with the benefit of Whitney singing "His Eye is on the Sparrow". Beyond the sentiment of seeing or rather hearing Whitney sing one more time, in "Sparkle 2012", Whitney is actually a better actress than a singer. Unfortunately we will never know what more potential thespian gifts Ms, Houston might later display. Where Diana Ross took to acting like she did to performing, Whitney had to grow from the ho-hum performance of character, Rachel Maron, to the better ensemble player in "Waiting to Exhale" and then the actually marked growth as an actress in the ho-hum remake of "The Preacher's Wife".
Carmen Ejogo had already won my attention as the well meaning, but, not cut out for motherhood role in "Lackawanna Blues". The problem is that the powerful Lonette McKee still burns in the memory of fans of the original film. The film does offer even better eye candy from Omari Hardiwick who outshines Phillip Michael Thomas, whose definitely worthy, to me.
Unfortunately, the movie came and went within a moment. But it banked $25 mil against a $14 mil budget, pre-video rental/DVD sales so like Diana Ross, who has also had a short but notable film career.....each of Whitney's films were probably profitable, if only marginally so. This one, in large because of Whitney's legacy, will live on.