“Sparkle” tries to be endearing and pull at your heart-strings, but it generally fails. There are a few attempts at dramatization that aren’t necessary, while opportune times to be intense aren’t taken. It’s difficult to become immersed in the story and attached to the characters so that you’ll be eager to see the outcome or leave the theater deeply affected. The most alluring performances and scenes were delivered by Carmen Ejogo (Tammy, AKA ‘Sister’), who plays Sparkle’s ambitious, but wayward sibling, and Houston as Sparkle’s protective and overbearing mother, Emma (Houston arguably gave her best on-screen performance in this film). Interactions between the pair were absolute gold. Epps’ seamless transitions from comedic to sinister as the shady Satin was also praise-worthy. It’s kind of troubling that the storylines and portrayals of supporting characters outshined the lead. For a new actress, Sparks did a decent job, but the screenplay didn’t give her much room to stand out unfortunately. The screenplay of the original definitely had its faults, but it was much easier to become enamored with or “sucked in” by the tale. The passionate sweetness of the love story between Sparkle and Styx (Luke) was significantly toned down and the edgier, action portions were almost non-existent. A nice change from the original was that Sister’s unruliness was given a little more of a rationale and background, and 3rd sister Dee (Tika Sumpter, “One Life to Live”) had more of a proactive and fiesty presence.
As far as the legendary music is concerned (the 1976 soundtrack featured music written by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Aretha Franklin; there was also a cast recording album), only 4 songs from the original were used. Whether that’s a good thing or not can be debated, but most perplexing was that the title-track “Sparkle” was omitted. It’s a rather ironic symbol of how Sparks as Sparkle didn’t really…well, sparkle. The new additional music failed to sparkle as well. It just wasn’t memorable. My last criticism was that the film visually resembled 2006’s “Dreamgirls” in its opening and closing. It struck me as a little uncreative. Don’t get me wrong, “Sparkle” wasn’t a bad film, but it isn’t the type that you’ll want to see over and over again.