Runtime: 116 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking
It is easy to be lured into the glitz and glamour of showbiz. The lights, the money, the popularity, and the perks are the first things people realize with celebrities. Of course there are things behind this gilded front—jealousy, abuse, drugs, and many other vices that you trade to get the fame. But there can be something else behind the fancy dresses, ornate makeup, and flashy set pieces: a “star” that is dime a dozen. Unfortunately, Sparkle is much like these famous faces. While it is amped up by amazing vocals and memorable songs, the storyline is nothing new and falls into almost every plot pitfall it can.
The story centers around a young woman named Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and her two sisters during the 1960’s Motown boom in Detroit. Sparkle certainly has the gift of songwriting and singing, but does not believe in her own abilities, so she forms a sister act with the eldest girl, Sister (Carmen Ejogo) as the sexy and sultry front woman. As their success and fame grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult to hide their gigs from their very religious mother, Emma (Whitney Houston). Along with family issues, the dark side of fame begins to take over Sister and the future of the group becomes more and more uncertain.
To be fair, the singing is phenomenal in this film. Jordin Sparks lights up the screen whenever she belts out a tune. Despite this being her first film, she certainly holds her own and shows a promising future in acting. Whitney Houston has a beautiful and heart-wrenching number that is the peak of her performance in the film. It is almost unfortunate that this is her last work, considering when she is not singing her acting is lackluster and cliché at times.
As for the downsides to this film, there are as many of those as there are notes in a Motown solo. While director Salim Akil tries so hard to capture the essence of this era in music, the movie feels more like a copycat effort than an authentic work. Something about the way songs are presented and performed do not feel authentic. This movie really does follow the generic music business storyline down to a t. If you have seen Dream Girls, then you pretty much can guess accurately what is about to happen next. Nothing about the plot is new or interesting.
The movie is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking. The violence is a little uncomfortable to watch during the scenes of domestic abuse. The rest of the portions for why it is PG-13 are understandable and nothing alarming. I would recommend this movie to someone if they absolutely love Whitney Houston or Motown music, but if you are looking for original plots and dynamic characters, avoid this film.
I give Sparkle one and a half out of five sequined dresses. The songs are beautiful, the dresses are lovely, but take away the glitz and glamour, it is not a film that will be on any top 100 lists anytime soon.