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Movie review: Performances make musical 'Sparkle' shine

Published August 18, 2012 7:28 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This musical melodrama, a remake of a 1976 film, centers on three sisters seeking stardom in the Detroit music scene, circa 1968.

Sparkle (played by one-time "American Idol" champ Jordin Sparks) is the baby of the trio, and a talented songwriter; Dolores (Tika Sumpter) dreams of going to medical school; and Tammy, a k a Sister (Carmen Ejogo), is the sexy lead singer, but also the most troubled — especially when she takes up with a successful stand-up comic (Mike Epps) who abuses her and introduces her to drugs. The girls' pursuit of fame angers their mama, Emma (Whitney Houston), whose own rocky experiences in showbiz nearly killed her until she rediscovered her Christian faith.

Director Salim Akil ("Jumping the Broom") and his screenwriter wife, Mara Brock Akil, lay the melodrama on with a trowel, with plenty of sharp musical performances by Sparks and Houston (and an opening number by Cee-Lo Green).

While most people will focus on Sparks' acting debut or on Houston's touching final performance — and the chill of foreshadowing when Emma says "Wasn't my life enough of a cautionary tale for you?" — the real fire comes from Ejogo's sultry and tough-minded performance as the down-but-never-out Sister.

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'Sparkle'

Opened Friday, Aug. 17, at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking; 116 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.