Rated PG-13 120 min. 2012

Sparkle (PG-13) Sparkle is a perfectly painless, extremely soapy standard showbiz yarn that's drawing rather more attention than it perhaps deserves owing to its status as Whitney Houston's last film. It should be noted that Houston only gets one song, the gospel hymn "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," though she duets with Jordin Sparks on the one over the ending credits. Since she plays the mother of Sparkle (Sparks), Sister (Carmen Ejogo), and Dolores (Tika Sumpter) — the Supremes-esque girl group at the center of the story — hers is definitely a supporting role. It is, however, a fairly strong one, perhaps because her overprotective mother character is loaded with backstory details that have a particular resonance to Houston herself. Her character is a one-time musical hopeful who was all but destroyed by the industry, drugs, and her own weaknesses, and she has retreated into middle-class respectability and the church. It's a role given unintended tragic resonance by Houston's death and something that hangs over the film in general. The bulk of the film, however, focuses on the girls and their various travails in the effort to attain stardom. There's nothing even remotely new about any of this, and the three leads are rarely more than stock types, but it's all done with reasonable professionalism, solid performances, and a modicum of stylishness by director Salim Akil. That it feels a good bit like a more stylish Tyler Perry movie is probably inevitable since Sparkle trades in much the same kind of melodramatics. Yeah, sure, Sparkle's big show that ends the film is utterly preposterous, but it works on its own merits — and after all, it's that kind of movie. —Ken Hanke

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Salim Akil

Writer: Mara Brock Akil

Producer: Debra Martin Chase, T.D. Jakes. Curtis Wallace and Salim Akil And Mara Brock Akil

Cast: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Ceelo Green, Curtis Armstrong and Terrence J



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