Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Sparkle

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:Sexual references and insults and non-explicit sexual situations, reference to teen pregnancy
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking, cocaine
Violence/Scariness:Scuffle, domestic abuse, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:August 20, 2012
DVD Release Date:November 27, 2012

You can’t help wondering what Whitney Houston was thinking when she decided to co-produce and star in the remake of a flawed but beloved 1976 musical melodrama about a singer who becomes involved with an abusive performer and becomes addicted to drugs.  Was this a cautionary tale?  A reflection on her own choices?  In this movie she plays Emma, the very strict mother of three musical daughters, living in 1968 Detroit.  She is determined that her daughters will adhere only to the three priorities she drills into them: respect, education, and having a relationship with the Lord.

Emma once tried to make it as a singer herself and is determined that her girls will not suffer the heartbreak she experienced.  But her youngest daughter, Sparkle (“American Idol’s” youngest-ever champion Jordin Sparks) wants to writes songs, and she wants to be a star.  She does not have the stage presence of her sultry oldest sister, Tammy, known to everyone as Sister (an electrifying Carmen Ejogo) and is too timid to tell the truth about her feelings in her lyrics.  The third sister, Dolores (Tika Sumpter), just wants to go to medical school.  She agrees to sing Sparkle’s songs so she can get money for school and Sister agrees because she likes the money and excitement.

They sneak out at night to perform so their mother does not know.  Their manager is the poor but ambitious Stix (Derek Luke), whose cousin Levi is in love with Sister.  But Sister wants money and excitement.  She agrees to marry Satin (Mike Epps), a comedian who specializes in the kind of racial humor that makes white audiences feel comfortable.  Emma throws them out.  The trio becomes more and more successful, but Sister’s life with Satin is filled with domestic abuse and cocaine and she resists her sisters’ efforts to help her.

Some intriguing themes about the racial conflicts of the era are raised almost in passing and never developed while the soapy parts of the story drag on and the storyline loses any pretense of believability.  Sparks is not an actress, and Houston spends most of the movie giving that “Hell to the no” look we saw too often in her reality show.  Ejogo is a sensation and Luke continues to be one of Hollywood’s overlooked treasures, bringing a dignity and sweetness to the role.  Epps is excellent, showing us Satin’s volatility and magnetism.  The musical numbers raise the roof, especially the cover of the earlier film’s biggest hit, “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (later covered by En Vogue) and Sparks’ rousing finale.  But the highlight is Houston’s passionate “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” a powerful spirit-lifter and a sad reminder of her once-to-a-century gifts.

Parents should know that this film includes a scuffle, domestic abuse, characters who are injured and one killed, tense emotional confrontations, sexual references including teen pregnancy and non-explicit situations, some strong language including ugly racial epithets, smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Family discussion:  Why did the three girls have such different ideas about what they wanted?  Why was their mother so strict?  Why did Sister tell the other two they had to leave her house?

If you like this, try: the original Sparkle with Lonette McKee and Irene Cara, “Dreamgirls,” and “Grace of My Heart”

 

 



Previous Posts

List: My Favorite Movie Ghosts
Happy Halloween! Here are ten of my favorite movie ghosts.  (NOTE: Some of these have inferior remakes -- stick with the originals.) Topper Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are the most s

posted 8:00:42am Oct. 30, 2014 | read full post »

List: Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell is one of the most versatile leading me in Hollywood. This week, he stars with Keira Knightley in "Laggies," playing a single dad. Here are some of my favorite Sam Rockwell performances: Moon Rockwell takes on the biggest possible acting challenge -- he in alone on screen for the ent

posted 3:50:02pm Oct. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Lauren Bradshaw's Terrific New "Before They Were Famous" Column
My friend and fellow critic Lauren Bradshaw has a great new series on the very earliest appearances by some of Hollywood's biggest stars. You can see Emma Stone, Brad Pitt, and Jessica Chastain in their very first roles, and give her suggestions for who she should report on next.

posted 8:00:27am Oct. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Big News From Marvel: Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and Much, Much, MUCH More
Wow, Marvel really knows how to make an announcement. Get out your calendars: May 6, 2016: Captain America: Civil War Nov. 4, 2016: Doctor Strange May 5, 2017: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 July 28, 2017: Thor: Ragnarok Nov. 3, 2017: Black Panther May 4, 2018: Avengers: Infinity War – Part I Ju

posted 6:46:42pm Oct. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Nell Scovell Pays Tribute to the Under-Used Women Alumnae of SNL
The wonderful Nell Scovell, who helped Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg write Lean In and is now working on a screenplay based on the book, has an excellent essay in Time about the talented women who appeared on "Saturday Night Live" but never transitioned to the kind of high-profile careers that some of

posted 3:37:33pm Oct. 28, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.