Sparkle is a 2012 American musical film directed by Salim Akil and produced by Stage 6 Films, It was released on August 17, 2012, by TriStar Pictures. Inspired by The Supremes, Sparkle is a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, which centered on three singing teenage sisters from Harlem who form a girl group in the late 1950s. The remake takes place in Detroit, Michigan in 1968 during the Motown era.
The film stars Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Whitney Houston, Mike Epps, Cee Lo Green, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Tamela Mann and Omari Hardwick. Sparkle features songs from the original film written by soul musician Curtis Mayfield as well as new compositions by R&B artist R. Kelly. This film is the debut of R&B/pop singer and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks as an actress. Sparkle also marks Whitney Houston's fifth and final feature film role before her death on February 11, 2012, three months after filming ended. The film is dedicated to her memory.
Detroit, Michigan: 1968, A nightclub MC named Red (Terrence J) introduces a local singer Black (Cee Lo Green) who performs his song "I'm a Man". While Black performs Stix (Derek Luke), an aspiring record label executive is watching from the crowd. Meanwhile, 19 year old, Sparkle Anderson (Jordin Sparks) talks with her older sister, Tammy "Sister" Anderson (Carmen Ejogo), before she goes onstage. After performing Black encounters Sister and Sparkle backstage, attempting to flirt with Sister, but instead of accepting his advances, teases him by slitting the side of her mini-dress above the thigh, before walking on stage. Stix spots Sparkle and is instantly attracted to her. Sister does a solo performance singing a song sparkle wrote titled "Yes I Do". Stix tries to get Sparkle's attention as her and Sister leave the club and rush home.
As Sister and Sparkle arrive home, their sister Delores/Dee (Tika Sumpter) opens the door and they sneak upstairs to their room to avoid having their mother hear them come in. Emma (Whitney Houston), the girls' mother, walks into the girls' room and notices Sparkle, Sister and Dee in bed together, and demands that Sister and Sparkle prepare for bed and be ready for church in the morning. The next morning while at church Stix along with his cousin Levi (Omari Hardwick) spot Sister and Sparkle sitting in the choir. Levi tells Stix that Sister and Sparkle are siblings with musical talent, and Levi is interested in meeting Sister. After church Stix and Sparkle meet and talk for a while, as Emma notices and looks on disapprovingly. Ms. Waters (Tamela Mann) Emma's friend points out that Emma's oldest daughter Sister is almost 30, and due to a bad situation in New York City was forced to move back to Detroit to live with Emma. Later that night Emma hosts a Bible study at her home in which both Levi and Stix are present. However, Levi takes the time to make a date with Sister who is uninterested and not participating in her mother's Bible study. After Emma and everyone leave the house, Stix secretly stays behind and notices Sparkle playing an original song that she wrote on a piano. Stix tries to encourage Sparkle to sing. A few nights later Stix comes to Sparkle's home to take her on a date at a nightclub. On the way home while sitting in front of Sparkle's home Stix tries again to encourage Sparkle to pursue a music career and tries to convince her to form a group with her sisters. Sparkle tells Stix that her mother was a singer, but almost died pursuing her dream.
One day after church Stix tries to convince Dee and Sister to form a music group with Sparkle and Sparkle becomes angry feeling that Stix has used her to speak with Dee and Sister about his plan. Dee explains that she will take part in order to make enough money for medical school, then will quit, while Sister is undecided as she will be starting a new job working at a department store. While at Emma's boutique, Ms. Waters shows Sparkle old photos of Emma with Sparkle's father and photos of Emma with Dee's father, explaining how different Emma was when she was with Sparkle and Sister's father. Sparkle leaves and goes to a record store where she sees Stix again. The two make up.
While on a date Levi expresses his love to Sister, and hands her a small ring box which only contains a picture of a ring, as Levi promises to one day give Sister a real engagement ring once he could afford it. Moments later comedian Satin Struthers (Mike Epps) comes into the diner with his entourage, noticing Sister and Levi and begins to insult Levi for not being able to afford a real ring to give Sister. Sister has an immediate attraction to Satin. Satin photographs Sister as she exits the diner with Levi. After receiving her first paycheck from her new job which only amounts to $96, Sister is convinced by Sparkle that if they enter this local talent show they could win hundreds of dollars, which would finally help Sister move out of Emma's home. With Stix as their manager the three sisters enter the competition, and Sister wows the crowd with her sexually seductive lead performing "Hooked on Your Love". Satin watches Sister perform and is mesmerized as Levi becomes uncomfortable noticing the attention Sister is getting. The sisters become a popular act and are invited back to perform at clubs throughout Detroit. A montage of the sisters performing "Jump" at different clubs is shown. Sister, Sparkle and Dee sit in a dressing room as Stix and Levi come to congratulate them on their performance, and Levi hands Sister flowers, but Satin soon comes in giving Sister a ring which she accepts. Levi sees this gesture and becomes enraged and attempts to fight Satin, but is pulled away by Stix. Afterwards Levi confronts Stix about not sticking up for him during the fight with Satin.
Emma invites her minister Reverend Bryce and friend Ms. Waters over for dinner after church, but the dinner is interrupted when Sister brings Satin whom she is now engaged to. Satin makes insulting and rude remarks at the dinner and Emma makes her dislike for him known to everyone at the table. In response Sister lashes out at Emma criticizing her for having her as a teen then forcing Sister to raise Sparkle and Dee as Emma was out getting drunk and trying to pursue a music career. Emma responds that Sister isn't telling the whole story, and tells her that if she leaves with Satin she is never to come back. Sister packs her bags and leaves with Satin.
Dee, Sparkle and a visibly high Sister rehearse for a performance at Satin and Sister's home, until Satin comes into the room and interrupts wanting Dee and Sparkle to leave. The girls are invited to open for Aretha Franklin on a television show, and while Dee and Sparkle get ready, Sister walks in with a black eye and bruises. Sparkle and Dee realize that Satin has been beating Sister. Sparkle also notices that Sister has begun using cocaine. Sparkle, Sister and Dee perform "Something He Can Feel", when Emma happens to wake up at home and catches a glimpse of their performance on television. She becomes both shocked and angry that her girls have been singing outside the church against her wishes. After their performance Stix introduces the girls to Columbia Records executive Larry who offers to sign them as a group. Dee and Sparkle try to get Sister to come home with them and leave Satin, but as they leave Sister spots Satin and goes back to him. At home Emma scolds Sparkle about her trying to pursue a career in the music industry, going as far as throwing a book which Sparkle has written song lyrics in the trash. Emma gives Sparkle an ultimatum that if she wants to continue living with her she must give up pursuing a music career.
At a club Satin is performing, but his jokes are ill-received, and Levi, who is sitting in the audience with a new woman, begins to mock him, to which an angered and annoyed Satin tries to attack Levi. Levi sees Sister walking out of the club and makes a remark to her. Satin and Sister run to Satin's car and drive home. At home Satin chases Sister through the home, beating her.
Dee, Sparkle and Sister have a meeting with Columbia Records, Dee and Sparkle arrive and can't find Sister, but soon find her in a backroom beaten and looking for a cocaine fix. After hearing rumors that Sister is now an abused junkie, the rumors are confirmed when Stix, Larry and Columbia executives find the sisters in the backroom and notice Sister beaten with cocaine in front of her.
At Satin and Sister's home, Dee and Sparkle try to get Sister to leave and get help for her cocaine problem, but Satin shows up demanding Dee and Sparkle leave. When Dee and Sparkle insist they're not leaving without Sister, Satin punches Sparkle. Dee, Sister and Sparkle all jump on Satin fighting him. Dee strikes Satin in the back of the head with a fire iron as he attempts to hit Sparkle again. Satin falls unconscious, and Dee tries to administer CPR, but the sisters realize Satin is dead. Sister orders Sparkle and Dee to leave the house. When the police arrive Sister is arrested and charged with manslaughter.
As Sister's arrest makes newspaper headlines, Emma leads her church choir in a performance of "His Eye is on the Sparrow". After church Emma arrives home to find Dee packing up to leave. Dee tells Emma that she was accepted to Meharry Medical College, and must leave at that moment in order to start research for scholarships which will pay for her schooling. A proud Emma hugs Dee.
Stix tries to get Sparkle to leave with him and get married. Sparkle however turns down Stix's proposal. Sparkle visits Sister in prison in which she tells that her and Stix broke up, Sister tells Sparkle not to visit her anymore as she doesn't want Sparkle to see her like that. Soon after Sparkle moves out of Emma's home renting her own apartment. Sparkle also shows up at Columbia Records everyday until she gets a meeting with Larry. She convinces Larry to give her a shot, but she must first put on a musical showcase to seal the deal. Sparkle reaches out to Stix to help her set up her first solo concert. Sparkle goes back to her mother's home to invite her to see her show, but Emma seems uninterested.
As Sparkle rehearses for her show Stix gives her a cupcake and a candy ring, Sparkle insists that he propose to her again. Sparkle performs "Look Into Your Heart" with Stix. Emma goes to visit Sister in prison, in which Sister states that Emma appears tired and worn out. While getting ready in her dressing room Sparkle suffers a nose bleed ruining her dress, but Emma walks in to Sparkle's surprise with a new dress. Emma expresses that she's proud Sparkle has decided to follow her dreams.
Sparkle goes out on stage and performs "One Wing", a song which she dedicates to Sister. A proud Emma watches in the audience while Stix and Larry watch from the side of the stage. Larry informs Stix that he wants to sign Sparkle. As the closing credits begin Sparkle's show continues with her performing "Love Will".
The original Sparkle, produced by The Robert Stigwood Organization in 1975 and released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 1976, starred Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee and Mary Alice, with songs and score composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield. One song from the Sparkle soundtrack, "Something He Can Feel", became a hit single for both Aretha Franklin (in 1976) and En Vogue (in 1992).
In the mid-1990s, BrownHouse Productions, run by Whitney Houston and Debra Martin Chase (One of the producers of the film) secured the rights to a Sparkle remake from Warner Bros. Houston had intended to cast R&B singer Aaliyah in the lead role as Sparkle, but due to Aaliyah's untimely death in August 2001, before the film went into production plans to remake the film was put on hold. In 2005, it was revealed Raven-Symoné was cast in the leading role. Following the 2011 release of their first feature, Jumping the Broom, Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, the creative team behind the TV series The Game and Girlfriends, took on Sparkle as their next project, with Houston executive producing and starring as the mother of the three girls.
Production for the film began on October 10, 2011, in Detroit. Filming wrapped up in early November 2011, with a release date scheduled for August 17, 2012. The official trailer for Sparkle was released on April 2, 2012, and premiered on Today with the release of the trailer the films producer Debra Martin Chase said she had mixed emotions with the trailer's release "On the one hand, I'm so excited about the movie and we're really happy with how it turned out," she said. "(But) just to have it said yet again that this is Whitney's last performance, it's hard. It's hard."
Howard Rosenman, the original's producer-writer and executive producer of the 2012 version of Sparkle, said a novelization of the movie will be released on August 7, 2012, by Simon & Schuster. Rosenman said Houston was influenced by the original movie as a girl and once went to see it every day for a week when she was a teenager. It apparently helped plant the dream in her to become a singer. When the new version was coming together, Rosenman approached her to play the girls' mother. She has two musical numbers in the film and on the soundtrack. Rosenman plans to team with director Joel Schumacher, one of the screenwriters of the original 1976 movie, to add five new songs to those by Curtis Mayfield (in the original) and R. Kelly (in the 2012 version) for a Broadway musical of Sparkle.
In December 2011, Sony announced the United States release date for "Sparkle" would be set for August 10, 2012. This was later pushed back by a week to August 17, 2012, due to Whitney Houston's death.
The film got mixed to positive reviews. Sparkle received an A on Cinemascore. Critic reviews for Sparkle so far have been generally mixed to positive, receiving a 58% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and a critical consensus stating: "While undeniably melodramatic and old-fashioned, Sparkle transcends its formulaic trappings thanks to Salim Akil's empathetic direction and strong performances from a committed cast", based on 92 reviews with an average rating of 5.7/10. Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 55 out of 100 based on 25 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "mixed or average reviews".
Critical praise has been particularly been given to Carmen Ejogo's performance. Film critic Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3 stars, claiming Ejojo "steals the film not only in her sultry singing numbers but in her violent marriage to a snaky, evil comedian named Satin." While giving the film a negative review, The Globe and Mail critic Courtney Shea stated Ejogo, in comparison to Sparks' performance, was "in fact more dynamic, sexy and, dare we say, Bootylicious than the real thing – plays hardened vulnerability to perfection, so much so that you wonder (given her 38 years) where Hollywood has been hiding her." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle went as far as to suggest in his review that Ejogo's performance might place her under serious consideration for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. LaSalle comments: "...very few people will walk out of Sparkle talking about either Sparks or Houston, at least not at first. Instead they will be saying, "Who was that?" And they'll be referring to Carmen Ejogo...If there is any justice, Ejogo will become very famous very soon. As in, maybe today...It's rare to see someone become a movie star right before your eyes, but that's what happens with Ejogo in Sparkle....For an actress, this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and Ejogo plays it that way. She leaves nothing out, holds nothing back."
The soundtrack's first official lead single is the last song recorded by Whitney Houston before she died on February 11, 2012, a duet with R&B/pop singer and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks on a song called "Celebrate". The song premiered on On Air with Ryan Seacrest on May 21, 2012 and was made available for digital download on iTunes on June 5. Whitney Houston's other track, "His Eye Is On The Sparrow", debuted only one day after the premiere of "Celebrate". The official music video for Celebrate was filmed on May 30, 2012. It made its world premiere on BET's 106 & Park on June 27, 2012. For the week ending August 18, 2012 Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack debuted on the Billboard 200 at number 26, number 7 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and at number 1 on the Billboard Soundtracks chart.