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Movie Review

Sparkle

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking.

Reviewed by: Brian C. Johnson
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Music Drama Remake
Length:
2 hr.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
August 17, 2012 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: November 30, 2012
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, TriStar Pictures

music in the Bible

how to overcome issues that tear families apart

using illegal drugs

abusive relationships

sin and the fall of man

mother who is strict with her children to keep them from repeating her mistakes

living for the fulfillment of personal worldly dreams versus faith, truth, goodness, righteousness and serving God

Christian living

What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

How can I decide whether a particular activity—such as smoking, gambling, etc.—is wrong? Answer

CHURCH—Why should Christians go to church? How important is it? Answer


teen pregnancy

SCANTY DRESS—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer

fornication

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

self-destructive behavior

How much is becoming worldly famous really worth? What are its terrible dangers?

Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?
Discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers
Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
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Featuring: Brely Evans … Tune Ann
Mike EppsSatin
Whitney HoustonEmma
Curtis Armstrong … Larry
Derek LukeStix
more »
Director: Salim Akil—“Jumping the Broom ”
Producer: Akil Production Company
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
more »
Distributor: TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures

“Was my life not enough of a cautionary tale for you?” is easily one of the most poignant lines in recent movie history. Spoken from a concerned Christian mother to her daughters whose dreams of fame and stardom (and “escape” from mother’s watchful eyes) were causing them to sneak out of the house to perform in seedy night clubs. The fact that the late Whitney Houston uttered these words is eerily prophetic.

In “Sparkle,” Houston plays Emma Anderson, a former singer who has tasted the forbidden fruit of the wanna-be-a-star life of the Detroit music scene in the 1960s. Raising three daughters to be God-fearing and God-serving isn’t easy for Emma, especially now that they are each young adult women who want to begin making decisions for themselves. These women: Tammy (Carmen Ejogo), Dee (Tika Sumpter), and Sparkle (American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks) want to form a girl group to rival Diana Ross and the Supremes, but Emma has no desire to let her girls go without a fight for their souls. Tammy (otherwise called Sister) has already been out in the world and has reluctantly come back home for respite; Dee has capital dreams—she only wants the fame to be able to pay for medical school; Sparkle, the true talent, however, wants to share her musical gift with the world. Each is willing to make huge sacrifices to make their dreams come true, but fame costs. Can Sister and Her Sisters (the name of their group) make it to the top without losing it all?

I will be honest, I was prepared to dislike this movie before I walked into the theater. Having long been a fan of the original from the 1970s starring Irene Cara as the title character, I was “sure” to hate this movie. Boy, was I wrong in my prejudice. While this iteration does not seem as gritty as the original (this may be merely related to advanced technologies), “Sparkle” drew me in and held me until the very end. Sparks seems a fitting choice to step in the shoes of Irene Cara; she emits a radiance that Cara did not, and I was drawn into her smile and into her dreams of stardom. Houston exudes a middle-aged maturity that seems to have escaped her in real-life—such poise and grace and wisdom. It is no wonder that many are calling this her comeback moment. She made me believe that God could change a heart and transform a broken past! Her rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” iss nothing short of amazing!

“Sparkle” fits well within the quest-for-musical-stardom genre: drugs, violence, and sexuality are the entrance fees to the dream. Emma tries to help her daughters follow the Hebrews 12:1 example of not following in her bad footsteps, but the girls are determined to believe that Emma is holding them captive. The film also captures well the experience of many singers who began singing in the church, but left the choir robes to don much more revealing apparel. The more successful Sister and Her Sisters got, the less clothes they were wearing.

Spiritually, there is plenty going on here, and this is no surprise, given that megachurch leader Bishop T.D. Jakes is involved with the production. “Sparkle” believes that her musical talents are a gift from God; Emma does, too. She just wants Sparkle to sing in the church. Emma has three principles. She wants her daughters to serve God, get an education, and to respect themselves and others. Go against these principles, and it’s out you go! Sparks proudly announces her virginity to a recording executive; this is refreshing, especially given that a large part of the storyline is her blossoming romantic relationship with the group’s manager, Stix (Derek Luke).

The film earns a PG-13 rating for “mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking.” Oddly, the rating does not include the sensuality and sexuality. It should. There are no scenes with nudity, but the suggestive clothing and sexualized dance moves definitely are red flags.

I really liked this movie, but Christian viewers should proceed with caution. Adults should definitely see it first to determine its appropriateness for their children and teens.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate—OMG (5), G-damn (2), “Good G_d,” slang words for sex (“do” and “whore”), s-words (2), bull-sh_t, hell (5), damn (5), ass (4) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate to heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I admit, I wasn’t too pressed to go see this movie, simply because I’m not a Whitney Houston fan. However, when I found out that it was produced by TD Jakes, I figured I’d take a chance on it. The movie was somewhat predictable, but it still held my interest. Being that it was about a secular girl group, and had Whitney as the main draw, I was not expecting this to be a Christian movie. I was pleasantly surprised that although it did not contain any conversion moments, it had enough Christian references and church scenes to let you know it was not your typical Hollywood flick. I would consider this to be a nice one for the older teen to adult crowd. Because of the profanity that is used in the movie (somewhere between a true Christian movie and a Tyler Perry movie), I wouldn’t use it for a church movie night, but it should be okay for the theater and the home.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Frank, age 43 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I am shocked! This has been touted as a Christian film. T.D. Jakes produced it, after all. It had little redeeming value. The characters were raised in church, but church had little affect on their character, evidenced by sneaking out at night through windows and deception. There was to be a Bible study at the home one night, but no one wanted it. TV was far more interesting. The tremendously seductive moves and stage dresses, and the “I’m horny” scene bordered on pornographic and are terribly unwholesome for anyone to see.

The worst thing is, where was Jesus Christ? Was he there when “Sister” got arrested for manslaughter or murder? There was reconciliation between her and her mom, but no prayers, no “Turn to Jesus.” The movie’s culmination was when “Sparkle” made it big in the world—the same world that ultimately destroys so many lives. Would she get it right? No evidence of that, since there is no Jesus, just secular songs and secular success. If I could make a Christian movie that would influence millions, I’d have true redemption in it somewhere.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Cheryl, age 64 (USA)
Negative—I have just finished looking at the movie, and I am outraged by the deception behind its being promoted as a Christian movie. This is not suitable for Christians as…
1) Themes of seduction and lust run throughout which leave ungodly images on the mind.
2) Besides one song by Whitney, the rest of songs were humanistic, and even that song could easily have been mistaken for just another church culture song. 3) The message learned was if you keep rebelling against your mom (Sparkle) in your heart, you can eventually go off to the carnal world, and she’ll be happy and give in to it.
4) Sparkle is a model of someone who wants to chase the carnal dream and is held up as a “godly” example to other young women out there.
5) We learn that sneaking out at night pays off for some, as it provides experiences leading up to fulfilling a “dream.”
6) The church is portrayed as joke of a place, with its compromises. 7) Falling in love with a man leading you down to hell is fine.

And the list can go on. In short. WHAT A HUGE DECEPTION. Faith in Jesus Christ is how we are saved, not faith in your talents. DISAPPOINTING AND LACKING TRUTH.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Lauri, age 41 (United Kingdom)

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