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EW Movie Review: "Sparkle"

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An American Idol and an American icon star in "Sparkle," a movie about three sisters who form a girl group in the 60's and get a shot at fame. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly magazine filed the following review.

"Sparkle" is a movie for anyone who thought that the pop melodrama of "Dreamgirls" wasn't over-the-top enough. It tells the story of three sisters from middle-class Detroit in the late ‘60s who form a girl group sort of like The Supremes. They’re marvelously talented, they want to be famous, and at one point they get their shot at a major record deal. But all sorts of things keep getting in the way, like an abusive celebrity boyfriend and an oppressively uptight church-lady mother played, with teasing confidence and force, by Whitney Houston in her final screen role.

Technically, "Sparkle" is a remake of a 1977 fake-Supremes Hollywood fable that starred Irene Cara. The new movie uses some of the same imitation Motown songs by Curtis Mayfield, along with new ones by R. Kelly. Yet from its opening scene set inside a hopping Detroit nightclub, "Sparkle" is charged with so much flamboyant high tension that the action often generates more emotion than sense. Cee Lo Green, incidentally, shows up in the opening scene, and does a pretty good job of acting, then totally disappears from the movie. The three sisters are Sparkle, a brilliant songwriter played by the sixth-season American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who let’s just say is about as good an actress as Irene Cara; the earnest Dolores, played by Tika Sumpter; and the sister who is known, literally, as Sister, played by the ravishingly sexy and accomplished British actress Carmen Ejogo, who looks strikingly like a more down-and-dirty Beyoncé. Her scenes with Mike Epps, who plays her charismatic but hateful comedian lover, are the most potent in the film.

The new "Sparkle" is unabashed pulp, with bits and pieces that seem slammed together from a dozen other movies. At times, it’s like a Joan Crawford neurotic-mother fantasy. At others, it’s a girl-group biopic that never quite delivers the charge of success we’re longing to see. Yet the one thing that Sparkle isn't is dull.

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