Sparkle: Review Roundup

Jordin Sparks and
Whitney Houston

TriStar Pictures has released Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 musical film, to moderate reviews. For the record, the creative team for the remake includes Mara Brock Akil (screenplay), Salim Akil (direction), Anastas Michos (cinematography), Terilyn A. Shropshire (editing), Salaam Remi (music), Fatima Robinson (choreography), Gary Frutkoff (production design), and Ruth E. Carter (costumes). The cast includes Jordin Sparks (Sparkle), Whitney Houston (Emma), Derek Luke (Stix), Mike Epps (Satin), Carmen Ejogo (Sister), Tika Sumpter (Delores), Omari Hardwick (Levi), and Cee Lo Green (Black).

Stephen Holden (N.Y. Times): A sudsy show-business Cinderella story in which Emma’s youngest daughter, Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), ascends to glory, Houston’s presence makes it a cautionary tale. Houston is not technically the star [but] dominates the new Sparkle and gives its most compelling vocal. … Sparks is not much of an actress [but] this 2007 winner of American Idol, who has slimmed down since her victory, has a wonderful voice. … The editing is haphazard, the cinematography too dark, and there are holes in the story. If the new songs on the soundtrack are effective Motown pastiches, most of them pale beside their prototypes. But diluted Motown is better than none.

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): This new Sparkle still sparkles more brightly than its 1976 namesake, which was a sort of rough draft for Dreamgirls. Like its predecessor, both melodramatic and predictable in illustrating the rough-and-tumble rise of a girl group in the black music scene, this new version pops with energy and adds welcome new angles. … Many of the sets look far too modern, just as the dialogue is studded with usages that were, in some cases, decades away. But the interplay among the characters pulsates and the dramatic confrontations are sufficiently charged for the audience to get past the rampant aspirational clichés or at least ride with them.

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune): Most of the stuff that’s new in the new Sparkle … is shrewd and cleverly considered. The stuff that’s old is what people responded to back in ‘76. … Sparks, as Sparkle, has a warm and pleasing screen quality. She’s a tad bland, but so is the character as written. She’s meant to blow everybody away in the finale, but here’s another thing about Sparkle: It actually holds back in terms of technique and dramatic builds. That restraint may hinder it at the box office, but director Akil knows how to give his actors space and time to get a few things going on their own. 3 stars.

Elizabeth Weitzman (N.Y. Daily News): The picture’s off-screen history gives it an import it would otherwise lack. But a strong cast, empathetic direction and memorable soundtrack help create a movie that does everyone proud. … The dialogue’s a little corny, and the drama is unabashedly soapy. Still, the actors sell it all. … The film is meant to be a showcase for Sparks. But while she is a sweet presence, she isn’t a natural actress. … Ejogo is the real heartbreaker as Sister, adding affecting delicacy to a role that could so easily have become an overblown cliché. … Come to see Sparks, pay tribute to Houston, and celebrate the star-making performance that Ejogo delivers. 3 out of 5 stars.

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