Thursday, August 16, 2012
I decided that I really wanted to be able to compare and contrast the 1976 classic movie Sparkle with this much anticipated remake featuring the late Whitney Houston. So the night before the preview screening, I tried to stream the original on Netflix, but they didn't have it.
I found it through VUDU movies, but my internet was too slow to support the player. So I packed up my laptop at 11pm, and went to watch it using the Manayunk Diner's WiFi; which was kinda fun; the late night diner atmosphere rather lent itself to the setting of gritty 1950's Harlem. But whatever you do, do not opt for the double layer chocolate cake - so dry, Sparkle could have used it to mop up her river of tears after Sticks left town.
For anyone unfamiliar, Sparkle can easily be confused with DreamGirls, or even, Mariah Carey's 2001 bomb at the box office, Glitter. But Sparkle came first. It is the story of 3 choir singing sisters (siblings) who for a brief period of time become singing sensations in Harlem (1958), but are brought low by an abusive gangster and the pitfalls of reaching for a dream.
The oldest, called Sister (Lonette McKee (1976) / Carmen Ejogo (2012)) is sassy, sexy, beautiful, and opportunistic.
In the middle is Delores (Dwan Smith (1976) / Tika Sumpter (2012)) she's the smartest of the sisters, and her part is enhanced quite a bit in the updated version. In both movies this sister gets the least attention, mainly because she's the only one of the three with darker-skin.
The youngest is Sparkle (Irene Cara (1976) / Jordin Sparks (2012)) She's the real singer in the family, sweet, a little shy, and really looks up to Sister. The updated Sparkle is also an aspiring songwriter, creating the hits the girls sing.
By the way, Jordan Sparks has a great deal more presence and singing chops than Irene Cara.
|I'm sure many bloggers will be making a play on the names Sparks & Sparkles, so I won't|
The girl's mother (Mary Alice (1976) / Whitney Houston (2012)) is the character which changes the most. Not only to accommodate a solo song for Whitney; but Whitney's character is far stricter with her daughters. And more importantly, the socio-economic structure is changed for the family, by making this mother a former performer and current dressmaker, instead of a maid.
I don't want to give all the differences away, but the male characters have interesting changes too (Derek Luke, Omari Hardwick & Mike Epps) let's just say screenwriter, Mara Brock Akil (creator Girlfriends & The Game) was generous with her pen. Which is not a criticism, 90-95% of her changes are to the betterment of the story. She fleshes out characters, relationships and motives lacking in the original.
What is to the detriment, speaks more to Akil's husband, the film's director Salim Akil. Not only do we lose the grittier, darker, more interesting tones; but he was not successful in maintaining an authentic late 1960's Motown feel for the movie. Actually, both husband and wife needed to work on keeping the film from becoming too contemporary in dialogue, looks and feel. Costuming - and the wardrobe changes are fabulous! - are not the only elements that go into making a period piece. I don't know what all the elements are, but somebody needed to consult with the folks on Madmen who understand recreating time periods to a T!
Still, on the whole, I really enjoyed the movie and recommend seeing it in the theater. No complaints from me as far as the music content is concerned.
Here's a RollingStone mini-review on the Sparkle Soundtrack:
By Jody RosenJuly 31, 2012