Review: Sparkle

Breaking into the entertainment business can be a very difficult thing to accomplish these days. You have to have desire, faith and the right connections. Four or five decades ago, breaking into the entertainment industry was probably even harder. That’s because you needed all of those things that I mentioned, but you also needed a little something called talent. In the movie Sparkle, three girls think they have talent to go out and succeed. Now all they have to do is get their foot in the door.

Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Dolores (Tika Sumpter) are sisters who all share the aspiration of making it into the world of music. Whether it’s going out to do small gigs, sneaking out of the house to perform or finding revealing (for that time) outfits for their lead singer to wear, they’ll do whatever it takes to make it to the big time. They’ve even met a manager (Derek Luke) who’s willing to take them on. He’s only an upstart, but he has that desire to succeed. He also has the desire to get with one of the three lovely young ladies.

All of this sounds good to everyone except the overbearing and controlling mother of the three girls. She wants none of this and plans on keeping her daughters away from a lifestyle and profession that she’s weary of. She keeps a watchful eye on them with the hopes of making sure they don’t follow their dreams of becoming singers. What she doesn’t know is that these women are dead set on their goal and it will be difficult to stop them, especially if they manage to keep most of it a secret from her.

I guess you can look at Whitney Houston’s role as being a inhibitor of sorts to the plans that some of these people have, but I wouldn’t call her a villain. If anyone can be classified as a villain in Sparkle, it would be Satin, the character played by Mike Epps. Satin is a comedian who’s essentially a coon or an uncle tom. He earns his wealth from making disparaging and disrespectful remarks about Black people in his comedy routines that are geared specifically toward entertaining a White audience. He has no issue selling out his people and making them look for a buck.

He’s not well liked by many of the people in the film, because of this and a few of his other nasty habits. Epps is asked to put this on display, but he’s also asked to do other things as well. He’s asked to be funny on some occasions and highly negative in others. There are even enough scenes where he’s asked to do both at the same time. In my opinion, he was probably the best performer in the film and I never thought of him having this kind of range. He plays Satin as someone who is classless on his own and a complete buzz kill when he’s around others. His performance is great here and he certainly added a large hunk of the entertainment for me in this particular film.

Maybe not me, but most of the people who are going to see Sparkle are probably going to see it because of the singing and the music. There’s plenty of both here and it’s consistently a part of the film from beginning to end. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that most of it is really good and easy on the ears. That’s because you have people like Jordin Sparks, Cee Lo Green and the late musical great Whitney Houston bursting out into song over the course of the film.

The rest of the film is hit or miss at times in my eyes. It starts off getting everything set as the audience is being introduced to the characters and the stories that make the movie Sparkle. The chance to watch this beautiful trio of sisters develop into this girl group and seeing all that goes with it is entertaining and might be the part of the story that I enjoyed the most. That’s nice to watch, but everything hits a bit of a lull somewhere after all that needs to be established is established.

That’s primarily due to the script resorting to cliche after cliche when attempting to create some of the heavy and more dramatic sequences for this musical drama. It’s noticeable and at least for me, it cheapens the movie a bit. Whether it’s the mother being against the girls singing or certain characters finding love or whatever, there were already enough cliches to go around and I don’t think they needed anymore. Sparkle was moving in a positive direction at this point and just keeping it somewhat on the same path would have worked best in my opinion.

After the film’s journey through a host of cliches, it does pick up again and stabilizes to an extent. It’s not as funny as it was before and it’s not as entertaining as a whole, but it does show improvements. In general, there’s nothing that’s really that bad in this movie. Even Jordin Sparks’ acting wasn’t as bad as I thought it could have been. She was wooden at times, but she was solid overall, especially since this is her first feature length film. If she continues to work at it, I’m sure she’ll continue to get better. I can see her (and Sumpter for that matter) succeeding if she wants to continue her young career in acting. She already has the looks, she just needs a little more polish.

I was originally going to skip Sparkle altogether, because I really didn’t want to watch another movie about Black people singing. A lot of us are good at it and I respect that, but I just want to see Black films diversify more and expand into other aspects of life. We’re a talented people and we’ve shown that over the years in other walks of life, but for some reason, we can’t grow and develop in the world of film. Hopefully that changes sooner or later.

As far as Sparkle is concerned, this is not entirely geared toward me anyway. It’s mainly geared toward Black women, people who love movies about music and fans of a legendary singer who just want to see, hear and witness her very last performance. If you fit into any of these categories, you won’t be disappointed and there’s no reason not to check it out. Sparkle probably offers most of what you’re looking for.

Score: 2.5/5

Rating: PG-13

Director: Salim Akil

Jordin Sparks
Whitney Houston
Derek Luke
Mike Epps
Carmen Ejogo
Tika Sumpter
Cee lo Green
Omari Hardwick
Michael Beach
Tamela Mann

Film Length: 116 minutes

Release Date: August 17, 2012

Distributor: Sony Pictures