Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Sparkle' review: Better than the original, still a little worn

**1/2 (out of four)

With his first feature screenplay, Joel Schumacher (who went on to direct, uh, classics like “Batman & Robin” and “The Number 23”) loaded the 1976 melodrama “Sparkle” with painfully inauthentic scenes in which black characters constantly describe white characters as “cracker” or, in a scene of an abusive relationship, “Bitch, crawl!” The horrifically paced movie (loosely inspired by the Supremes, who also factored into “Dreamgirls”) doesn’t seriously address a trio of African-American singers and their push toward stardom; it just demonstrates how a story can turn into sub-Lifetime material in the wrong hands.

Updating the setting from 1958 Harlem to 1968 Detroit, the remake of “Sparkle” takes a big step up in legitimacy while sticking to a story as old as song. Nineteen-year-old Sparkle (Jordin Sparks, not much of an actress) wants to be a star but fears singing alone, so she’s glad when manager Stix (ever-reliable Derek Luke) includes Sparkle’s sisters, Sister (Carmen Ejogo) and Dee (Tika Sumpter, in the movie’s best performance), in the act. A sweetly sung tune and Sister’s short dress later, the gals are a hit.

Director Salim Akil (“Jumping the Broom”) and writer Mara Brock Akil (Salim’s wife, penning her first feature script after writing for shows like “The Game” and “Girlfriends”) consider race as a factor in both a changing society and professional aspirations. This occurs most strongly through successful comedian Satin (Mike Epps), who’s far more fully drawn here than in the original as he romances Sister with his wealth more than his character. After the girls’ overprotective mom Emma (the late Whitney Houston, in her final performance) calls him a “coon,” Satin insists he’s more of a “sambo.” Later he finds out how his material, focused on the behavior of African-Americans, plays in front of a black audience rather than a white one.

That’s far more interesting than anything in the story of “Sparkle,” which drags on through the usual beats of fame and tragedy and heartache and love. Amateur editing also dries out a film that livens up in its few musical performances, including Houston’s pipes taking center stage for a song in church. She hits the high notes as needed; “Sparkle” shines here and there.

 

 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River is three acres of overgrown weeds and shrubs. It is referred to by some as a "ghost park" because it is hidden in plain sight.

  • Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    There's a fire starting in my heart and it's making me realize it's been kind of a while since Adele released an album. Her last full-length "21" dropped in 2011 and I barely remember that year it feels so long ago. But now, there's some good news to fill our recently Adele-less lives and it's...

  • Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

  • Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Don't get me wrong, Justin Bieber is still really embarrassing. He's the young pop star who recently said something only a 21-year-old would say, "Now being 21, and going through some hardships, I think you can hear that in my vocals." This is a guy who, last year at a charity gala benefiting AIDS...

  • Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.

Comments
Loading
66°