THE PITCH: In this remake of the 1976 cult film, a Detroit-based Barry Gordy wannabe known as Stix (Derek Luke) pushes bright-eyed teen singer/songwriter Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) and her two sisters — level-headed Dolores (Tika Sumpter) and troubled-yet-charismatic Sister (Carmen Ejogo) — to form a vocal group ... much to the chagrin of their overprotective/ultra-religious mother Emma (the late Whitney Houston). Once the trio earns a measure of fame, trouble rears its ugly head.
BEST LINE: “And that’s why I needed to see them in the light of day,” says record company executive Larry (Curtis Armstrong) when he finds Sparkle and Dolores trying to clean up a bruised and drugged up Sister while hiding in a broom closet.
WORST LINE: Confronted by Sister for years of alleged parental neglect, Emma speaks up to defend herself saying: “You never found me laying in a pool of my own vomit!” It was supposed to be a touching scene, but instead ... it was just gross. Who wants to think about vomit when you’re eating nachos?
CAMEO CRAZY: In the tradition of films like New Jack City, Sparkle manages to squeeze in a boatload of music-industry cameos. Keep your eyes peeled for entertainers like Goapele, Kem, Terrence J (from BET’s “106 & Park”) and Atlanta’s own Cee Lo. The film’s executive producer — spiritual luminary Bishop T.D. Jakes — even shows his face in a few scenes.
THE MANE ATTRACTION: With Sparkle being a period piece, you expect to see a few actors wearing wigs. But this film takes fake tresses to another level — showing the cast change hairstyles more than K. Michelle on “Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta.” One memorable montage scene featured more than 12 total wigs. Even Cee Lo rocked a greasy, conked-out piece for his brief walk-on.
MUSIC MATTERS: The original Sparkle dazzled audiences with some now-classic numbers. The 2012 version falls a little flat in that department, especially when it comes to the movie’s most popular tune, “Giving Him Something He Can Feel.” The ’70s iteration (staged in a dark, smoky nightclub) practically skeeted out sex appeal; the remake, however, comes across limp. Luckily, Houston saves the day with a powerful and moving version of the legendary gospel song “His Eyes Are on the Sparrow.”
ART IMITATES LIFE: Speaking of Houston, the core of the film’s tale — depicting a singer’s battle with drugs and domestic violence — hits super close to home, especially since there wasn’t a Hollywood ending in real life. Surprisingly, this sad fact makes the late singer’s performance more believable and poignant.
BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? Nostalgia rules. If you’re of the many people who memorized every line of dialogue, song, and bit of choreography from the original Sparkle, it’s hard to imagine that you’d be satisfied with this version.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Welcome to Sparkle for the Tyler Perry crowd; it’s a black-and-white tale of extreme good vs. extreme evil. And it delivers a strong rebuke of folks who dare to play the “devil’s music” and live the “sporting life.” Looking for nuance and subtext? This isn’t your flick.
Sparkle 2 stars Directed by Salim Akil. Stars Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston. Rated PG. Opens Friday, Aug. 17. At area theaters.
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