Jordin Sparks as Sparkle
Whitney Houston as Emma
Carmen Ejogo as Sister
Tika Sumpter as Delores
Derek Luke as Stix
Omari Hardwick as Levi
Mike Epps as Satin
Out in theaters August 17
In 1960’s Detroit, three girls who sing in the church choir dream of being the next greatest girl group in the Motor City.
Sparkle (Sparks) is a girl with a love for music and a gift of writing songs. After an appearance at a local club’s open mic night, she and her two older sisters, Delores (Sumpter) and Sister (Ejogo), form a group singing Sparkle’s songs. Sparkle’s siblings make it clear that they are in for the short haul. Sister, now living back at home after a failed marriage is only trying to get out of her mother’s house by any means necessary, and Delores is only killing time until she enrolls in medical school. All of this is done on the sly from their mother Emma (Houston), who is a fierce bible-thumping mama-lion that has nothing but disdain for the entertainment business. When the girls begin to make a name for themselves, the whirlwinds of fame and love complicate their lives leaving some tragic consequences in their wake, but Sparkle’s belief in her music shines through and ultimately guides her to stardom.
In this remake of the 1976 movie, starring Irene Cara and Phillip Michael Thomas, the location and time period have changed from the ’50’s doo wop era of Harlem to the Motown sound of Detroit in the ’60’s. Actually filmed in Detroit, it really was a pleasure to see familiar city locales on the big screen like Cliff Bells, Bakers Keyboard Lounge, and even Lafayette Coney Island. This film marks American Idol winner Jordin Sparks’ acting debut and she does actually “sparkle” in this role as a soft-spoken church-going teenager who secretly pens hit songs. Jordin is a breath of fresh air; not a false step here at all. Fans of One Life to Live will recognize Tika Sumpter, from her role as Layla Williamson, still hot and sassy as ever here, as the sister whose ultimate ambition is to be a doctor. This is the first time I have ever experienced Carmen Ejogo, but her portrayal of the fun-loving, freewheeling Sister is outstanding.
Most of all, this film marks the final appearance of Whitney Houston. As the girls’ mother, Whitney plays the typical, strong Black “mama don’t take no mess” kind of mama. Once a singer with failed aspirations, she wants to make sure her girls stay on the straight and narrow. She has high hopes for them which do not include the music business. Whitney’s performance is flawless and she will bring you to tears with her rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. Whitney was also an executive producer of this film, which truly is a fitting legacy to her career.
With a few exceptions in plot twists, this movie closely mirrors the original. Don’t let that stop you from going. This film is a MUST see. But unlike the original, you will need to bring a box of Kleenex.