Sparkle Blu-ray Review
SPARKLE is what you would call an old fashioned yarn. It’s a straight forward musical about three sisters with different dreams. This is a remake of a 1976 film of the same name. It is predictable, but will entertain until the final note is sung. Pop superstar Whitney Houston died shortly after production was finished, so there is a tinge of sadness that permeates every scene she is in. Don’t let that dissuade you from watching because Houston gives a great performance that will be sadly forgotten due to the tragic circumstances.
Sparkle (American Idol’s Jordin Sparks) is the dreamer of the three sisters. She likes to write songs and stand in the background. Her confidence is not her strongest attribute. She wants her songs heard, but she needs someone else to provide her voice. That is where Sister (Carmen Ejogo) comes into play. Her confidence is her major asset and she is not afraid to show it. Dee (Tika Sumpter) aspires to be a doctor, but is willing to go along for the ride of this fledgling group.
The scene is Detroit in the year of 1968 (the original was set in the 1950s). That was a wise choice to make that change. Motown was churning out hits and the city was bustling with energy, excitement and danger. Each of those traits is represented here. Sister performs the scintillating “Yes I do” with Sparkle at the bar looking on. Sister gets joined by her two sisters later on as they try to get discovered. Director Salim Akil does a remarkable job throughout filming these scenes. He knows exactly where to train the camera and what to focus on. He rightly zeroed in on the slinky Ejogo as she captivates the audience with her movements and gestures. The first group number has a heavenly quality to it as Sister emerges from the shadows in an aural glow.
Stix (Derek Luke) eventually comes to manage the group and tries to get more exposure for them. Sister also catches the eye of a successful comedian named Satin Struthers (Mike Epps). This character is so one note. Satin is basically an egotistical abusive jerk. There are no colors to the character. It’s just hard to believe that the independent Sister would fall for him no matter how wealthy he is. I certainly don’t fault Epps for this because he does well with what he was given. I just feel there should have been more layers presented to give a more appealing reason for Sister’s choice.
Even though Sparks plays the title character, it is clear that Ejogo is the star of this film. She dominates the screen in every way. Her vocals are spot on. She’s sexy and slinky and you can’t keep your eyes off her. Ejogo is near 40 in real life and it’s hard to imagine how she isn’t a bigger star than she is. Her dramatic scenes are just as powerful as her singing scenes. There is real emotion being displayed. Sister eventually gets married to Satin and it is rocky from the beginning. Beatings are commonplace, but she can’t break free from him. Ejogo says so much with just her eyes. The eyes being black and blue tell one story, but you can see beyond that to feel the pain that Sister is experiencing. Sister wanted to break free from her mundane life. Many women will relate to the character’s choice of wanting that financial security and ignoring obvious warning signs.
Houston is another one that stands out in her supporting role. She plays the mother of the three sisters. It was a bold choice for Houston to take this role because it mirrored closely her own life. Emma is a washed up singer with past substance abuse problems and a checkered romantic past. There is one scene which will no doubt make viewers cringe a bit. The dialogue recalls Emma passed out in her own vomit. That may hit too closely to Houston’s death than intended. Houston does have one showcase musical performance which appropriately enough happens in a church. If that doesn’t affect you at all then you are not alive.
As stated before SPARKLE is rather predictable in its story. The group goes through its highs and lows. Relationships are frayed, repaired or broken. You still won’t be able to turn away because it is never boring. Sparks may be overshadowed by Ejogo and Houston, but she does do a nice job in her first movie role. Her American Idol training served her well in performing in front of an audience and selling the songs in the end.
SPARKLE may not offer much surprises, but it does deliver great music and appealing performances from a top notch cast.
Video (2.40:1): The picture is crystal clear even in the smoky bars displayed here.
Audio (English 7.1 DTS-HD MA): The sound is so important in a musical. I’ve heard too many films with a muffled sound that ruins your enjoyment. The horns, guitars and drums could be right in your living room. Each singer should buy several copies of this disc because they may not sound any better. Nice achievement.
Commentary with Director/Producer Salim Akil: Dry monotone commentary from Akil. It was a chore listening to this.
Extended Performance on “Hooked on Your Love” (6:04): First performance of the group in the film. You really get to see the draw of Ejogo with this clip.
A Tribute to Whitney Houston (19:50): The filmmakers and stars talk about the impact Houston had on their life and this project.
A Dream Come True (17:31): The filmmakers discuss the genesis of getting the film made and the obstacles that came about. Screenwriter Mara Brock Akil changed some things from the original. They made the women more empowering.
A Sparkling Performance (15:35): Showcase of the choreography and the costumes in the film. Choreographer Fatima Robinson and Costume Designer Ruth Carter go over their choices and their craft.
Sparkle & Shine (15:58): Focus is on the actors and the casting. The actors discuss their characters and the filmmakers go over their reasons for choosing them.
“Celebrate” Music Video by Whitney Houston & Jordin Sparks (3:45): Incorporates scenes from the film with modern scenes with the actors. Sadly this video must have been done after Houston’s death since she is only seen in the movie scenes.