'Sparkle' Movie Review: Laced With Faith or Only a Hint?

Bishop T.D. Jakes, who is also the CEO of a film and entertainment company, has high hopes that his movie "Sparkle" that opened Friday will be viewed by others as he calls it – a cinematic extravaganza.

Jakes, who told The Christian Post recently that the movie is "laced with faith" and not an overtly Christian movie, is banking on the performances of the late Whitney Houston and an ensemble cast that includes a magnetic Jordin Sparks to help make "Sparkle" pop with audiences.

"I'm very, very proud of the final result and what we were able to do," Jakes said. "I believe that the movie will not only be a tribute to the legacy of Whitney Houston, but also it will be the impetus to which many people will find inspiration to navigate their own lives through persistence into the field of their own dreams."

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The story itself is compelling enough to hold the viewer's interest, but the addition of Motown-style music and costuming, along with glitzy nightclub scenes interspersed with the down-to-earth lives of three sisters and their mother make for an entertaining film.

The new version of "Sparkle" is an "ode to the genius of the original 1976 movie, modified to the music, fashion, lingo, and historical effects of the 1960s, while maintaining to the emotional clarity and spirit of the earlier classic," say the movie's filmmakers.

The city has been changed to Detroit, the home of "Hit Factory" Motown, and the original struggling parent (Houston) is now an upper middle class family doing very well.

"Sparkle" is the story of three sisters, who each have their own dreams and ambitions, and who form a girl group as a way of capitalizing on the Motown sound sweeping the nation at the time.

Sparks, who plays "Sparkle Anderson," a somewhat innocent 19-year-old that tries her hardest to obey her Bible-believing and often strict mother, does a great job portraying a character that in some ways mirrors her own rise-to-the-top, American Idol winning life.

Tammy "Sister" Anderson, who is the oldest sister and most rebellious, is played by Carmen Ejogo. The actress, born and raised in London and now living in New York, portrays the group's captivating lead singer who gets into a troubling relationship with a music industry tycoon.

The actors for the main male roles in the film, Derek Luke (Stix), Mike Epps (Satin), and Omari Hardwick (Levi) all do a fine job playing the love interests, and in Epps' case, an antagonist as well.

Understandably, much of the interest in going to see the film will be driven by the fact that the movie is Houston's last acting role before her death. Houston was one of the world's best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.

Houston's dialogue for her character, "Emma," is on a couple of occasions somewhat prophetic, pointing to the risks of leading a highly publicized personal life and what was to come later in death. Houston died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles on Feb. 11, 2012, as the result of drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use," according to the L.A. County coroner's office.

A scene in which Houston as "Emma" is singing in church is quite impressive.

The portrayal of the family church's reverend in the movie is a bit stereotypical, as well as at times, the mother and her Bible-thumping ways. The film as a whole is not exactly "laced with faith" as Jakes describes it and perhaps only hints at belief, especially when it comes to Sparkle's rise to the top. The movie appears to imply that it was primarily Sparkle's fortitude and inner strength that got her there – and that God was simply in the wings if we look really hard.

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