'Sparkle' provides no light, no glitter, no shine

atomictown.comAugust 17, 2012 

Sparkle is the title. It's not a description.

Though light is inferred in the name, it doesn't shine. Sparkle doesn't even glitter. Not a little bit. Using a similar metaphor, dark rooms have more light.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Sparkle is the main character in Sparkle. She's one of three sisters living in Detroit in 1968. Motown is booming, and the music scene is hot. Sparkle writes songs. She is too shy to front her music, so Sparkle convinces her sister Sister to do the lead vocals and other sister Delores to do background vocals with her. Sister can sing and is sexy, knows it and soon the girls are on their way to stardom.

This crisis and that get in the way.

The main hang-up for the sisters as they march up the celebrity ladder is their mother. Her singing career let her down and left her struggling and bitter. She's completely and angrily against the three young women going into music. They should -- she thinks -- stay home, go to church and stay out of trouble.

They don't. If they did, there wouldn't be a movie now would there? Not that what you get is much of a movie.

Producer/director Salim Akil is at the helm and his wife Mara Brock Akil did the screenplay based on Howard Rosenman's original 1976 story. Rosenman's film starred Irene Cara. I don't remember the movie. If it's anywhere near as badly done as Akil's, my forgetfulness may be amnesia and my brain did it for self-protection.

Heavy sigh. If only amnesia would strike here. This is one that really needs forgetting.

Start with Mara Brock Akil's screenplay. This is fiction. And fiction can take certain liberties where the suspension of disbelief is not only important, but critical. It's impossible to suspend disbelief in many of the film's scenes, and the climax is a total groaner.

Her husband Salim can't use his wife's horrible screenplay as an excuse for this wreck. Last year's Jumping the Broom demonstrated Akil's inability to tell a coherent story. Sparkle cements it. Akil ought to stay away from the camera and stick with producing.

The film's two name stars are 2006 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston.

Donning a 1970's Valerie Bertinelli look, Sparks plods through this ponderous plot. Sparks' name is ironic. Outside of a few decent songs -- too few, actually -- and some very good singing from her and co-stars Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter, Sparks adds very little spark to a movie that ought to sparkle like its name.

Derek Luke and Mike Epps play Sparkle and Sister's love interests, rounding out the cast.

This is Whitney Houston's last movie. She's Sparkle -- Sister and Delores' mom. Houston isn't known for her acting ability. Early in her career when on top of the music world, Houston did three terrible movies -- The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher's Wife.

She wasn't good in those, and she's not good here. This one is not her fault. Houston had very little to do but glare, storm and stammer. With a limited character, badly written lines and a director that does not know how to work with a more or less amateur talent, Houston falters.

She has one very badly done song and that's about all. It is a completely wasted performance and adds another use of the adjective "tragic" to her untimely death earlier this year.

After a fantastic career, to have our last image of Houston be from this terrible, terrible movie, is truly depressing. Even more depressing is that many critics will place this movie on their worst of the year list.

Houston doesn't deserve this. The same can be said for her co-stars, who worked their butts off to give meaning to a really meaningless movie.

Mr. Movie rating: 1/2 star

Director: Salim Akil

Stars: Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Tika Sumpter

Rated PG for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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