Special to South Florida Times
In Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 hit film, three sisters form a singing group that soon disbands because the girls go their own way:
The power couple Salim and Mara Brock Akil — the same people behind Jumping the Broom and BET’s The Game — are the engine behind this effort. But they’re juggling too many projects at once and their work is suffering.
Mara, who wrote the screenplay, tries to have the story make more sense. But as with the original, the songs — written by Curtis Mayfield back then — are the best part of the film. Mara gets kudos for bringing the story forward to the early days of Motown in Detroit, while the original Sparkle was set in Harlem. She leaves her story, however, with not much of a proper ending. What happened to Levi? Does Sister turn her life around? Usually when a film is open-ended,it’s obvious the filmmakers have sights set on a sequel.
The Akils nevertheless set out to remake a classic. Unfortunately, with no plot continuity, and scenes that look more like 1999 then 1968, the Akils have missed the mark. Salim tries his best to direct something that is meaningful to fans of the original, yet updated enough to show that there was a reason to remake this classic in the first place. Thus the reported $17 million pricetag, while the original Sparkle was filmed on a shoestring budget.
Houston’s Emma is a woman who’s made mistakes and is trying to protect her daughters from making theirs. She pulls off strict mom quite well. Her singing performance in the film, however, is not one of her best. Houston, usually awesome even on a bad day, sings a gospel song that should move the audience. Sadly, she seems to have phoned that one in.
Sparks as the titular character pulls off good church girl a little too well. To the untrained eye, one would say that Sparks is essentially playing herself as Sparkle. Mike Epps’ Satin is a clown, even though his character is supposed to be serious. Thanks to him there are parts of the 2012 Sparkle that are unintentionally funny; as when Satin beats Sister with a belt and then (spoiler alert!) when Satin dies. Abuse and death aren’t even remotely funny.
Ejogo, who will star alongside Tyler Perry in the upcoming Alex Cross, shows much range as Sister, a damaged woman who found herself raising her two sisters while her mother boozed her way through life. Unlike in the original Sparkle, Ejogo’s Sister is a more relatable character than Ms. Goodie-two-shoes Sparkle, so even though Sister is essentially reckless and selfish, one can’t help but root for her.
Even with Houston’s presence, it would be wishful thinking to say that the Akils have a bonafide hit on their hands with this latest Sparkle. But it’s not a miss either.
Sparkle is more of a hybrid version of the original in that the acting is decent, the wardrobe is much better (thanks to costumer Ruth E. Carter), and the best part of the film is still the music.
So see Sparkle to get a last glimpse of Houston, and then buy the soundtrack for a better experience.