Release date: August 17, 2012
Directed by: Salim Akil
Screenplay by: Mara Brock Akil
Cast: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter
Sparkle … just doesn’t. The story behind why Whitney Houston would choose to star, as well as sign on as executive producer — supposedly committed to this project for twelve years — would make for a far more intriguing film than the painful remake that’s up on screen.
In fact, this remake answers the question as to why very few people remember the original version of Sparkle from 1976, starring then relatively new talents Irene Cara and Lonette McKee. With a jumbled attempt to turn three decades into one – the ’50s and ’60s, infused with ’70s music – as well as a ludicrous screenplay that über-critic Pauline Kael dismissed as “the skeletonic Joel Schumacher script,” one would think that anything could be better than that.
One would be wrong.
Set in an oddly bland Detroit of 1968, we get Salim Akil’s ham-fisted direction married to a substandard script by his wife Mara Brock Akil. Rather than a sing-along, consider this film as a “say-along,” with lines so clichéd, you might find yourself reciting them in perfect sync with the characters. It’s the Dreamgirls/Supremes iconography once again (a girl group comprised of three promising talents tries to ascend the dizzying heights of stardom), but scrubbed free of any Motown heat, decent songs, strong scenes, dazzling choreography, sets or costumes. Not to mention a paucity of stand-out performances. It seems that Beyoncé and prior American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson have nothing to worry about.
Speaking of American Idol, 2007 winner Jordin Sparks stars as the titular Sparkle, the family’s, um, unsung talent behind the shy demeanor who must learn how to fight for her right to the mike. Sparks has a lovely onscreen presence, but can’t match the breakout superstar wattage that we have grown to expect from actress/singers in such precedential musical dramas as Lady Sings the Blues (Diana Ross), the above-mentioned Dreamgirls, as well as the TV movies Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (Halle Berry) and The Josephine Baker Story (Lynn Whitfield). And Sparkle’s turn from timid mouse to determined careerist is so abrupt as to challenge believability.
[For KIMBERLY GADETTE'S full review and rating on doddle, please click here]