Whitney Houston is the best thing in Sparkle, the remake of the 1976 girl-group melodrama which was sort of the original Dreamgirls.
As her daughters aim for pop stardom in late ’60s Detroit, Whitney’s mama character cracks a whip and demands respect, education, and most of all, faith.
She’s an ex singer herself, who was knocked up at 16 and went through hard times and rough behavior, emerging from it with a bible and some hard truths.
So when one daughter brings some creep home and says they’re engaged, Whitney’s eyes flare as she snarls, “Child…you want to whore with that coon!”
When the daughter furiously answers with the supposed horror story of Whitney’s character’s own low points, Whitney replies, “You never ever ever saw me laying in my vomit!”
Her acting is really strong–and she even gets to do a rousing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” in a church scene, her character getting to evolve in a way that will have you choking back tears.
The whole movie is about Whitney, even when she’s not on, because it’s a monument to what she could do–and could have done–as well as an unwitting echo of the dangers of singers’ druggy behavior, not to mention the way the church can inhibit such people from full expression and happiness.
Otherwise, the film’s melodramatics can be hamfisted, the new songs aren’t nearly good enough, and Jordin Sparks doesn’t seem waiflike enough to play the virginal ingenue.
But while I prefer Irene Cara and Lonette McKee in the original version, that one didn’t have Whitney, who goes out in a blaze of glory.