Like Beauty in the Beast, Sparkle is a tale as old as time.
Set in the 1960s, the remake of the 1976 film by the same name is the story of three sisters growing up in an upper-middle class family in Detroit during the Motown era – and my, my, my, can they ever sing!
Although they’re primarily utilizing their talents during the local Sunday morning church services, the Williams’ sisters have set their eyes on an audience with tastes far beyond Gospel. And so, they wisely capitalize on the fact the masses are thoroughly enamored with catchy songs with beautiful harmonies and form an all-girl group that’s practically destined for stardom.
Sparkle, who’s played by “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks in her first big-screen role, is not only the story’s anchor but her family’s rock as well. Given that her Mama (Whitney Houston, who’s outstanding and a commanding presence in her final movie role) isn’t exactly thrilled about the girls’ musical prospects considering her own music career’s ups and downs, Sparkle tries her best to keep everyone happy, which, of course, is an impossible feat.
While the inevitable twists and turns the story takes in Sparkle aren’t anything we haven’t already seen in films like Burlesque, Dreamgirls, Almost Famous or Fame, it’s still enjoyable to watch because of lively performances from all the leads, a strong sense of pacing and its underlying focus of the importance of family and pursuing your dreams even when the odds are seriously stacked against you.
Also enhancing the final product is eye-popping cinematography, imaginative costuming and, perhaps, the most important element in a musical, the fantastic accompanying soundtrack. No doubt, if Whitney were still with us, it wouldn’t have necessarily been heralded as her big comeback, but her stunning rendition of the gospel classic “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” is still nothing short of goosebump-inducing swan song. For all the cracks about her limited vocal range in recent years, the sheer gusto of her voice is back in particularly full force.
But since it was always Sparks’ movie to carry in the first place, the 22-year-old star definitely steps it up in a serious way, particularly with the pretty, Gospel-tinged strains of “One Wing.” With a voice like that, it’s no wonder she won “American Idol” so easily, and one can only expect even bigger things in the future from her both from a musical and cinematic standpoint.
Even if the final product isn’t as weighty of a performance as, say, fellow “A.I.” alum Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning turn was in Dreamgirls, all eyes are on Sparks in Sparkle, which says a lot considering her powerhouse co-star certainly brought her A-game as well.
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