Detroit has long been synonymous with music, the 1960s in particular. The tumultuous decade for the city was coupled with some of the best and most revered music in American history, most notably that which was created by Motown Record Corporation.
The choice to shoot “Sparkle” here added to the feel of a good movie that might not overtake the original in the hearts of the masses, but just might interest a new generation in a form of music from another era.
“Sparkle’s” lead character, played by Jordin Sparks, is a meek and mousy 19 year old with a talent for songwriting, a talent soon discovered by Stix (Derek Luke) and his cousin Levi (Omari Hardwick). The two become enthralled with Sparkle and her sisters, Delores (Tika Sumpter) and Sister (Carmen Ejogo).
Ejogo is a bright spot in the film, capturing Sister’s thirst for the riches and the spotlight wonderfully. Mike Epps also flexes his acting chops playing the comedian/cocaine addict Satin, giving us a familiar character but also delivering the film’s most stinging lines and moments.
It would be impossible to talk about “Sparkle” and not put a spotlight on the late Whitney Houston. In this, her last film, she plays a strict church-going mother and a singer herself, warning her daughters of the pitfalls of show business because she knows. The message is eerily potent, almost as if Whitney was not talking to Sparkle but to Jordin Sparks herself, or perhaps even her own real life daughter. It is saddening to see Houston on screen and know that it represents the end of her road.
“Sparkle,” while a bit smaller in scope than its 1976 counterpart, is enjoyable fare throughout with good performances and striking shots of Detroit vistas and venues. And while the ending is a bit abrupt and open-ended, it doesn’t take away from the film or negate the journey of young Sparkle and her sisters.