Movie Review: Sparkle

There’s a tired look about Whitney Houston’s face for much of this movie. In this remake to the 1976 urban classic, Houston’s portraying Effie, an overly protective mom of three musically inclined daughters she doesn’t want falling into the trappings of secular ways. “Keep dancing like that and you’ll bring home a baby you can’t feed,” she snarls during one scene. She’s speaking from a place of experience and regret. But Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), “Sister” (an unforgettable Carmen Ejogo) and “Dee” (Tika Sumpter) aren’t really thinking about men; they’re mostly concerned with the music. And boy, in 1968 Detroit, the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and CeeLo Green (yep, that CeeLo!) are everywhere. At night, with Effie snoring on the couch, they’d sneak out to perform at local clubs. Sister led, Sparkle wrote and Dee kept everyone in check. They’d meet some good folk (Derek Luke, Omari Hardwick) and a few scoundrels (Mike Epps at his dastardly best) on their road up the charts, but sadly, not every sister would make it on the musical journey without hitting a few bumps. As for Houston’s character, she’d wise up to the daughters’ dealings after a while. That tired look turned into one of resentment. But after a powerful “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” solo one Sunday and a late moment of self-reflection, the radiant Whitney we’ll always remember makes an appearance. The Dreamgirls-ish film is just a so-so coming-out party for Sparks. However, it’s a poignant, appropriate going-home celebration for Houston, one of the greatest entertainers the world will ever see. (C+)

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