The remake of “Sparkle” is a meandering mixed bag. But one thing will bring audiences into theaters this Friday: the final screen appearance of Whitney Houston. She looks and sounds great as the mother of three grown daughters (hard to believe but possible). While some elements of “Sparkle” are preposterous, Whitney as the mother–a church singer who failed in the pop world–works. And when she sings “His Eye is on the Sparrow” she is so sensational that people in our screening room Tuesday night were weeping and clapping. It’s a short, remarkable tour de force that saves the movie and makes you miss Whitney even more.
I will try to be positive about “Sparkle” because it’s a worthy endeavor. All the actors are very good, starting with Jordin Sparks in a tough role. For the first three quarters of the film, Sparkle is subjugated to the background as everyone else around her fights and carries on. She’s Cinderella, and has to wait her turn as her two sisters–played well by Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo–get their turns with love, drugs, and relationship issues. Very good are Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Omari Hardwick as the men in their lives. This could be Derek Luke’s breakout movie. Next up is “Baggage Claim”with Paula Patton. He’s on a roll.
When Jordin Sparks gets to sing, she is terrific. Unfortunately, you have to wait until the very end of the movie for her to shine. Her final number, sung over the early end credits, is a showstopper. But she keeps the audience in their seats, that’s for sure. And she plays Sparkle finally out on her own as a performer as cross between Valerie Simpson and Alicia Keys. It doesn’t make much sense, but “Sparkle” never did. You just have to go with it.
Whitney did “Sparkle” because she was waiting for the sequel to “Waiting to Exhale” to be ready. We all know what happened. The tragedy is that Whitney still had the charisma, and could still act. Her voice has changed considerably, but even what’s left is better than most singers around. The studio will be smart not to let any clips out of Whitney singing–she’s worth the price of admission.
My mistake. Here’s the audio: http://soundcloud.com/sparklemovie/his-eye-is-on-the-sparrow