'Sparkle' has more emotional punch with star Whitney Houston

'Sparkle' looks like a serviceable addition to the musical melodrama genre.

Alicia Gbur/Sony TriStar Pictures/AP
'Sparkle' features the last onscreen appearance of star Whitney Houston, who plays the mother of a musical group made up of three sisters.

The tragic, premature death of modern music legend Whitney Houston earlier this year looms over the head of this summer’s Sparkle: a remake of the 1976 musical melodrama (of the same name), which was meant to serve as a comeback vehicle for the starlet of such popular ’90s titles as The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. Instead, the film will mark Houston’s final appearance onscreen.

Sparkle sees Houston play second fiddle to American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who portrays (not kidding) Sparkle Williams: the most musically-talented in a trio of sisters who rocket to fame during the late ’60s – as “The Motown Sound” is all the rage – and subsequently fall victim to the same cycle of clashing egos, drug use, and abuse that destroyed their mother’s (Houston) own budding musical career.

Husband-wife duo Mara Brock Akil (Cougar Town) and Salim Akil (The Game) handled writing and directing duties on Sparkle. The film’s cast is rounded out by such supporting players as Carmen Ejogo (Chaos), Tika Sumpter (One Life to Live), Mike Epps (Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Extinction), Derek Luke (Hawthorne), and musician Cee-Lo Green (The Voice).

Have a look at the official trailer for Sparkle below:

Based on this early footage, Sparkle looks and sounds like a pretty standard (re: formulaic) musical cautionary tale about the pitfalls that come with success. While Sparkle doesn’t appear to boast quite the visual panache or flair of, say, Bill Condon’s Oscar-winning Dreamgirls adaptation, the painfully obvious parallels between Houston’s character and the singer’s tumultuous real-life experiences adds a subtextual layer of melancholy to the proceedings, which may give the film more emotional punch.

That said: if you bypass Houston’s involvement and judge primarily by the rest of the creative personnel who are involved with this flick (combined with the trailer footage), then Sparkle still seems like it should be a serviceable addition to the musical melodrama sub-genre (if nothing else).

Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.

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