What can I say about SPARKLE? Well, I can start out with what I was feeling as I walked into that theater, excited, yet anxious to see a movie that I've always loved ever since I first saw the original as a child in the late 80s/early 90s. Since first hearing about the remake, all I could do was wonder, is this going to live up to the 1976 original version of the film that featured a baby fresh faced Irene Cara as ‘Sparkle' and Phillip Michael Thomas as the girls manager and Sparkle's love interest, Stix . Was this movie going to live up to the movie that made me love one of the hit songs of the movie, you know the song, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel?" And that was before EnVogue even made it popular. Well, the answer is a simple – YES!
The remake of SPARKLE not only kept to the elements of the original, while keeping it fresh for the new generations embarking on it, but the producers, cast and director of the film also did a great job in making it its own. So, let's dish about the timeless tale of the unbreakable bonds between family along with the high price cost of fame and what can happen if we lose our true selves or what can happen when we stay true to ourselves while sharing our gifts with the world.
This musically entertaining film set in a 1968 Detroit is led by a brilliant all-star cast. Let's run them down: Grammy®-nominated, Platinum recording artist Jordin Sparks (American Idol winner, Season 6), multiple Grammy® Award Winner in her last film performance, Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard, The Preacher's Wife Waiting to Exhale), Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher, Captain America: The First Avenger), Mike Epps (Jumping the Broom, Friday After Next), Carmen Ejogo (I, Alex Cross, Pride and Glory), Tika Sumpter (What's Your Number?, "Gossip Girl," "The Game"), Omari Hardwick (Kick Ass, The A-Team) and Grammy® Award Winner CeeLo Green.
I know, that's quite the lineup and they all shined. It's like each and every person was born to play the role they were given, especially, Carmen Ejogo who played the infamous ‘Sister.' Before seeing the film, I often wondered if the person chosen would live up to the glamorous, scandalous, and vixenous (Is that even a word)portrayal of Sister, the role Lonette McKee perfected back in 1976. But, Carmen Ejogo totally answered that question with, and if you're wondering the same, no need to wonder, she killed it. She had the right mix of a selfish/ selfless sister and daughter. But I will admit, Sister's fate in this movie, is totally different from Sister's fate in the 1976 version, but don't worry I won't spoil it.
Now let's dish about Mike Epps, (spoiler alert) the residential bad guy. I personally, would have never thought the hilarious Mike Epps from Friday After Next and the The Honeymooners (a remake gone bad by the way) would play such a bad guy, and play the bad guy so well. His character Silky was the perfect mix of comedy and snake all rolled up in one. Silky was an inappropriate jerk who was sometimes funny, but he was a true bad guy, because not once in the movie do you find yourself rooting for him, you always find yourself routing against him, and in my eyes, that's a good bad guy.
Now on to the adorable Jordin Sparks, the girl whose last name wasn't the only thing connecting her to this role. This role was written in the stars for Jordin and she shined in it. The American Idol star had all the sweet charismatic innocence that Irene Cara had when she played the role in 1976. It was so refreshing seeing Jordin play such a coming of age role. As ‘Sparkle' Jordin faced the challenge that most babies of the family face, having your own voice when everyone around you tells you what to do or what you should do. SPARKLE was also a good reminder of why we all fell in love with the adorable Jordin Sparks back on the 6th season of American Idol… her voice! To sum it up, Jordin knocked her debut role out of the ball park.
So what about Mrs. Whitney, who if we're being honest is the reason so many of us, will commit to see the film? Well, as we all expected, from previous performances, Whitney took this film that some might even say was art imitating life, and rocked it! She took the role of the God fearing strict momma, who was once chewed up and spit out by the music industry, to levels and depths that one can only hope to take it to. Unlike the original, which was darker, this version of SPARKLE had more of a dramedy vibe. This allowed us Whitney fans to not only see her serious depths, but visit the comedic timing and humor of the diva we all loved one last time. Whitney, the Executive Producer of SPARKLE and one of the biggest supporters who pushed to have this film made, not only shined in front of the cameras, but behind them too. It was her vision to remake the film along with her counterparts… director alim Akil (Jumping the Broom), screenplay writer Mara Brock Akil ("The Game," "Girlfriends"), story creator Joel Schumacher and Howard Rosenman, and producers by Debra Martin Chase (Just Wright, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), T.D. Jakes, Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil, and Curtis Wallace (Jumping the Broom, Not Easily Broken).
Even though Whitney did a wonderful job playing the ridiculously strict and sometimes, non-understanding momma to Jordin, Carmen and Tika's characters, I couldn't help noticing how tired our dear diva with the golden velvet voice looked in her final role. It wasn't a tired look of not getting enough sleep, or exhausted from the long day, it was a tired look from within. Whitney's sole was tired and it read on her face in her scenes. I can't help but wonder if anyone else noticed this, whether it was the director, the producers, cast or even the editors as they pieced together the final cut. Did anyone notice how tired Whitney looked? I did, and as much as I loved her performance and this movie, I couldn't help but get sad. Not only because of the touching moments of the film, but also because I didn't see that vibrant Whitney we all knew and loved so much. You know the one, so full of life she had a twinkle in her eyes.
Don't get me wrong, she was still Whitney, but she was different. Maybe it's because the wages of life weighed on her? Maybe it was because she was constantly dealing with an inner struggle to stay sober? Either way, I wonder if I noticed the tiredness just because our diva is no longer here. I can't help but wonder if I would have noticed someone probably going dealing with something so heavy it was tiring them out in my everyday life? I hope so.
In the end, I can't help but to suggest that everyone go out and see SPARKLE because this movie won't disappoint! It has everything from comedy to drama, church, passion and good music. Plus, it's Whitney Houston's final theatrical performance that alone should be enough to say, I have to see the diva do what she does best, act and sing one last time! SPARKLE which has a run time of 1 hour and 51 minutes is rated PG-13 and playing in theaters.