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Review – ‘Sparkle’ (A Remake That Doesn’t Live Up To The Original)

Review - 'Sparkle' (A Remake That Doesn't Live Up To The Original)

It’s rare that I vouch for a film greatly before I’ve seen it. I love cinema way too much to do that. However, that is not the case with Tri-Star’s “Sparkle.”

I loved the original film, so I was very excited to review this remake. I wanted to see every talent attached to this film kick ass! I also wanted to see amazing writing and direction!

However, when the film was over, all I wanted to do was crawl into a dark theater and rewatch the original version to remind me of the gem that the film is, despite the attempt of this version.

The film had some great moments, but the bad moments outweighed that overall attempt.

WARNING – spoilers within.

The film opens up to a snazzy Detroit nightclub in 1968. Jordin Sparks (Sparkle), and Carmen Ejogo (Sister), are observing with slight envy, a sweaty, singing man by the name of Black   ( played by Cee-lo Green). His character is singing up a storm, and the club is jumping. The opening scene is big and sexy! Loud Music, sexy people, and smoke invade the scene. Black has the club’s audience in a frenzy. The opening scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene of New Lion’s “I Can Do Bad By Myself” (2009). Just replace Taraji’s character with Cee-lo’s character.

After this amazing opening scene, we see that the two sisters are inspired, yet, Sister is disgusted at Black’s ability to rev up the crowd. The scene ends with Stix (played by Derek Luke) connecting with Sparkle. It appears that they have made a love connection at the nightclub. Literally, love in the club. I liked their chemistry in the film.

In the next sequence of events, we enter into the family life of the sisters. The film introduces the viewer to the complete Anderson family, which consist of Dolores ‘ Dee’ Anderson (played by Tika Sumpter), and the family matriarch, Emma Anderson (played by the late superstar Whitney Houston). Unlike the original film, Emma Anderson, the mother, is an entrepreneur, not a domestic servant/maid. In addition, the family is upper middle class. The family is an American family, and they are deeply involved in their neighborhood church. The mother is deeply religious. All of the sisters are in the church choir.

It is during this time in the film that it is revealed that Emma Anderson has had a failed attempt at becoming a professional singer, and predictably, her daughters now want to become singers.

Sparkle has a slow burning dream of being a singer; Sister desires to sing to create a new life for herself; and Dolores sings to make her sisters happy.

In a turning point in the film, while at a neighborhood bible study, Stix, while attempting to make a move on Sister, learns that Sparkle is a very talented singer and writer. After he finds out that Sparkle is a talented writer, he aggressively pursues a relationship with her.

In this film’s version, Stix wants to pursue his dreams of working in the music industry. However, the film does not reveal if his character is a musician himself. In addition, I was initially confused by the romantic links in the film between Sparkle, Sister, and Stix.

Initially, it appeared as if Stix liked Sparkle, but then he likes Sister, and then he ultimately falls for Sparkle. We are then introduced to Stix’s cousin Levi (played by Omari Hardwick). Levi has a deep interest in Sister. Over time they begin to become romantically involved. However, their love is short-lived.

So now that Stix knows that Sparkle is a great songwriter, he creates a girl group out of the sisters. He gets Sparkle to convince the sisters that this is the best thing to do with their lives. The sisters then blast onto the music scene (fairly easily, despite a scene where they are picked on for wearing ‘church dresses’). With Sisters deep sex appeal and talent, they comfortably rise to the top quickly. Their success is instant! It is during this time that Sister is introduced to Satin Struthers played brilliantly by Mike Epps. Sister and Satin enter into this dead end relationship over her mother’s best wishes. The relationship soon takes a quicksand turn from bad to worst. The relationship ruins Sister. She soon becomes addicted to cocaine, Satin beats her (he is eventually murdered by Dee), and her personal life deeply affects her singing career. Sister soon spirals out of control, lands into prison. One thing leads to another, and Sparkle is then led to finally pursue her deepest dreams of being a singer.

This film makes you wonder a lot of ‘whys’. I am sure that the writer desired to create an enhanced “Sparkle”, yet there were a lot of parts of this version that did not fit well together.

The original characters were given slightly different goals and obstacles — that were not very clear in this version of the film.

I did not clearly understand the relationship between Emma played by Whitney Houston and her daughters. I understood that she did not want them to become raunchy singers, however, the obstacle for her character was not strong, nor very believable.  In the end, Sister ends up in jail for taking the blame (for Dolores’s murder of Satin). That is a very serious crime, yet the sequence of events that lead to his murder were very soft. There was no gradual build up to the murder scene.

At times, the film felt as if it was several films in one. Especially, when characters seem to not be totally committed to their goal in the film. When a character is committed, they sleep, they walk, and they have sex like their characters. Omari Hardwick’s character Levi, really brings this point home. Initially, he was this love sick man, and then in one scene he was this hard core gangster. I was utterly confused, especially, when Omari is such a strong actor.

When the film ended, I felt sad that a classic such as Sparkle was seemingly squashed into nothing more than a spark.

The film’s breakout actor was Mike Epps. He took the Satin Struthers character, and killed it. At times you wanted to laugh when he was on screen, yet as a viewer, you then become to see that his character is not involved in a comedy. I left the film with a newfound respect for Mike Epps as an actor.

I wanted to see Emma’s ( Whitney Houston’s) storyline flourish more. She was so angry throughout the entire film, and I began to wonder if her character was a singer and a hooker back in the day. Why the hell is she so mad? I wanted to know the juicy details! As a viewer I was not privy to her backstory. I wanted to see more of her on the screen, however, what I did see was good enough.

It was bittersweet to watch her last moments performing. May she rest in eternal peace.

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gabrielle skafidas

If you are going to remake a classic movie like this one, you need to bring it. They didn’t. Period. I am so surprised so many people that have seen the remake, never saw the original. I have gotten old….


This was a good movie but it certainly does NOT qualify as a "Sparkle remake". I agree with the writer that there were many times it seemed like there were several movies inside the movie, there were too many unexplained connections…romantic and otherwise, and Mike Epps was a poor casting choice for Satin Struthers. The 1976 version captured the dark essence of the drug world, the sinister characteristics of gangsters, and the dangers of the streets much more effectively and realistically than the 2012 version.


This could have called All that Sparkles.. Clearly they could have picked up where the original left off with Whitney as Sparkle and what became of her life. Naming her kids after her own sisters and baby Sparkle aka Jordan. Who reminds Emma of her younger self. Sister /Tammi reminds her of her beloved"Sister" and she is angry because Sister threw her life away and ran with the gutter of a hustler. I would have connected better if it was a continuation.

Tawanda Clark

I also thought the old version was better. Also, for some reason it irritates me that somewhere there is always a remake or somebody trying to out do someone else. No one in these days can seem to come up with their own ideas. When I first heard there was a new version of Sparkle, I was instantly not interested in watching, knowing somehow that it would be less entertaining than the older version. Even after finally taking the time out to watch it, I am still not impressed. Some of the scenes from the new version were sort of odd.


Well Masha Dowell if you couldn't understand anything or only somethings in this version of sparkle but you could totally understand everything in the old version of sparkle than your just slow in the head you shouldn't be a reviewer.The first version of sparkle had more plot holes and undeveloped characters and missing pieces in it than any movie I could think of.


Ok so I read your review. I love the original Sparkle and I know it word for word. The original version is the one with the underdeveloped story line. You didn't know the ages of the sisters, where Delores went and why wasn't she at Sister's funeral. How they rose to stardom singing in one nightclub. And how was Sister the eldest but Effie asks for her homework…that meant Sparkle was like 15. I LOVE the new Sparkle and it will included in my movie collection. I love how the Akils gave the sisters goals, and developed there lives realistically. I love that they weren't struggling and that Emma didn't have to scrub toilets and listen to the racist rumblings of the aristocrats that Effie worked for. They stayed true to the original plot and switched up characters..i.e. Satin dies instead of Sister. Delores goes to med school after killing Satin, instead of slinking away to who knows where out of guilt for getting Levi put in jail in the original (remember she dropped a dime on Satin, but Levi got shot). They explained why Delores looked drastically different from her sisters, and they stayed true to memorable lines in the original…"Sister can't fly on one wing". My ONLY problem with the film was casting. Why OH Why was Derek Luke cast for Stix?! Phillip Micheal Thomas was drop dead gorgeous and Derek Luke…well…he aint no Phillip Micheal that's for certain he did do Stix character justice though….but I did notice the parallel…Derek and Omari where like the original reverse characters…it was Levi who was handsome and chocolate in the orginal…The new Sparkle fills in the unanswered gaps of the original version.


"…the gem that was the original film?" My sister & I were dumbfounded to find out there are people actually think "Sparkle" (the 1976 one) was a good movie – I laughed through most of it out of equal parts ridicule and shame – ridicule at the poor writing, poor acting on the parts of the two leads, dingy art direction & cinematography, and shame that Curtis Mayfield wrote some of his greatest songs for this thinly plotted diversion created by, of all people, Joel Schumacher.

The remake is better if only for the reason that, up until the still-damp third act, it actually tells a story and makes a valid (though not entirely successful) attempt to make characters out of cardboard cutouts with names like "Stix" and "Satin Struthers".


Bottom Line -In the original, the characters were able relate to the times they were living in there all they had to do was act or inhabit the characters written on the page. Tougher task in the remake cause they had to emote what the times were like back then, and since they had no connection to that period , they could not deliver, that's where real superb acting takes front and center, not saying none of these actors could not but it's a tougher task cause really they were doing a period piece. They needed to study lots of material from that era, the 60's Civil rights, the racism, Black Panthers, college sit ins all this informs you as an actor even though 5% to maybe 12% maybe be relate able to the film/character. Remember what Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox did in Collateral – Tom had a Binder about 150 pages of info about Contract Killers, and Jamie had one for Taxi Drivers! I love actors cause this shit ain't easy, it takes lots of research that don't ever show up on the screen!!!


Thanks for the review, and as a huge fan and collector of Blaxploitation movies and the Original SPARKLE being one of my personal favorites, after reading so many reviews on the web, I'll patiently wait to catch the remake on STARZ. It was evident by the Movie Trailer that so much had been changed but after reading so many reviews by Original fans of the Original occult film apparently the movie should have been titled something else other than SPARKLE!

Jasmine Johnson

In my opinion, the original was better! Irene Cara was great! Too bad she's not in the new film, not even a cameo. She's still making great music though!


Carmen Ejogo aka sister made the film for me. she was the best part. Mike is behind her.


The remake was semi entertaining but certainly not even close to ever topping or being equal to the original. The original Sparkle is my favorite movie of all time. I was utterly disappointed that the remake didn't incorporate the death of Sister. That was a key transition in the dramatics of the original film. I understand that remakes should be different in some way to the original, but there are just some key elements that shouldnt be changed…such as the funeral. Just wasn't feeling the whole jail/prison thing. Mike Epps was great but didn't like how Satin was a comedian. That was weak. Levi should have gone to jail and worked for Satin somehow. And I also wasn't feeling Dolores going to med school. I think they tried to hard to make the film positive and "safe" as opposed to the original wasn't. There were no dramatics in this film and nothing that made me root for Sparkle to succeed and overcome her obstacles. They should have just elaborated more on the original and gave a better backstory. And stop coming down on Masha for giving her "summary"…she did give ya'll a warning. I rate this film a C for effort. If I can just sike myself out and beleive this was not a Sparkle remake, it just might have been a pretty good movie. I think that's why most people who have not seen the original deem the remake to be really good. Oh, and I too had a thirst to see the original again for the millionth time..watching it as I type on BET. :) And also, Whitney's character's name is EFFIE and not Emma!!!


I did NOT like the new "Remake" of this classic movie. 1st. in the original movie they were poor sisters trying to make it out of the ghetto, there was a plot to the original movie. In this version they were living in a house that did not seem like they were struggling. We did not exactly know what Whitney did for a living to make that kind of money to afford such a big house in the 1960's. In movies the characters need to explain their surroundings somehow. 2nd. The Actress who play sister to me was not curvy enough to play this role, and also she seemed to be overly sexy in the first opening scene in the night club. Lonette Mckee played the sister in the original movie and she was sexy without even trying to be, it was just her "Swag". In this version(Remake) sister was trying to hard to look sexy and it even made her look very drunk in the first scene. 3rd. Why in the hell is Mike Epps walking around with a damn camera taking pictures of sister. Satin Struthers was a gangster not a rich comedian. I don't understand who thought of that idea It wasnt a good one. 4th last but not least why didnt sister die? Sister not dying was like Mufasa not dying in the lion king. Like Duh.. that is the most important part of the film. I totally understand a remake, I also understand adding your own taste to the film to make it a "little" different from the original, but this movie will not carry on the legacy of the original. That 1976 sound track that Curtis Mayfield did with Aretha was AMAZINGLY CLASSIC. I wanted better, I was expecting better.


I did

Julius Hollingsworth

I loved the new film.I believe they brought their A,Game.The Fellas and the Ladies all had heart.They weren't all bitter and jaded and I didn't need more back story for Mama.I got it.
I liked the fro touch.Tika,I enjoyed watching a chocolate sister with a brain who looks good.-Nice
work to all of those involved.


I agree that there were many many whys. I think Carmen was very believable as the struggling, sick Sister, but not so much as the glossy performing one. She was too wiry and forced. It didn't feel sultry or natural like the ever-smoldering Lonette Mckee. None of the girls had rhythm in the dance scenes except Tika, lol. I loved Whitney and Tamela's chemistry as besties. Jordin needed a speech coach to make her line delivery more believable. She just had no passion at all. Whereas Irene Cara's yearning was palpable. Jordin"s "chemistry" with Derek (who was great) wasn't there to me. She seemed too afraid of him instead of having a crush on him. Mike Epps really, really rose the bar in his acting. I agree that they should have changed the death/jail circumstances around and made the 3-on-1 fight more believable. There were definitely some missteps in the dialogue and some things that should have been left on the cutting room floor due to the manner in which Ms Houston died (that whole "vomit" thing needed a serious rewrite during filming or editing during post, post production. For clarity and for couth")

Whitney (so emotional to see her), Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick (who I didn't think was a gangster in that club. I thought he was a successful working man. He already owned a home and was working all that overtime…) and the musical numbers (except that over-the-top madness with the choir etc in the finale) were the gel that held this film together and made it worth seeing. There were some other great casting choices (like Curtis Armstrong as Larry the executive!) and hopefully it will be a commercial success.


please don't revoke my black card, but I did not like the original so I had not interest in seeing this version :)


This is a very interesting article. There were so many things that bothered me about this movie, you mentioned some of them, but others you stated, I thank you for bringing them to my attention. I agree with you 100% on Mike Epps' performance. He moved outside of his "Day-Day" box and really showcased his acting abilities. I have a enormous respect for him now. Even though Epps acted his booty off, I still left the theater with confusion and so many "Why's?"

1) Why was Emma so dead-set against her daughter's wanting to sing? It was mentioned that she "laid in her own vomit", so attempting a singing career turned her into a drunk? Show us this so we can understand why she was so mad. Why?
2) The Dinner Table: It started off good, then took a serious nose-dive with poorly written lines. I thought Dolores was the oldest, so why was it that Sister stayed at home and raised Emma's children? Wasn't she the middle child? Why?
3) I know it was PG-13 but the love scenes (or lack of) were horrible. There was no chemistry between Levi and Sister and there definitely wasn't any between Sparkle and Stix. The only love scene was between two people in an abusive, toxic relationship. Why?
4) The Restaurant Scene: Just embarrassing. Who gives a woman a box with a PICTURE of a ring in it? I appreciate the director trying to show us that Levi had high hopes for him and Sister but that was just not the way to go. And if the restaurant was so beneath Satin, why was he there? Why?
5) Why did Sister go to jail for killing somebody in self-defense? Why did Dolores let Sister take the fall? Why did Dolores kill a man, with no remorse, just went on about her business like she'd just won the lottery. Oops, my bad, she did attempt CPR on a person with a skull fracture. Why?
6) Why was Emma singing at Satin's funeral when she despised him? I guess it was Satin's funeral, there was no casket. Maybe it wasn't a funeral, maybe it was just a Sunday morning performance. Why?
7) I know that a remake is not supposed to be exactly like the original but, Sister died in the 1st one. We don't know how she died (I always believed it was from either an overdose or a beating), to show HOW she died in the remake would have been good. Satin should have killed Sister, Emma should have sang at her funeral and Satin should have been the one in jail. Sister was left alive in the remake so she could go to jail. Why?
8) My biggest disappointment was the lack of passion between Sparkle and Stix. One of the most loving and touching scenes that was ever filmed was in Sparkle (1976) when Sparkle was in the studio for the 1st time, feeling insecure, Stix stepped in, sang the song WITH her, not just TO her, showing her "I'm here for you." Now, that's love. I was hoping to see some of that in the remake when Sparkle and Stix were at the piano. Instead, he got up in the middle of the song and brought back a birthday cake. Why?

I was so excited about seeing this movie, because this is one of my favorites, also I wanted to see Whitney do her thing one last time. Sorry, but all this movie did for me was made me want to cry, run out of the theater, rush home and watch the original to remind me of what a gem this movie really is.


Excuse my penchant of using colloqualisms, but the S&A community can be a mfer of a place to hang one's hat. I say that in an affectionate way b/c this house will make or break a person. And, I believe it keeps folks at the top of their game. Listen, for those who have been regular vistors to this site, we know this community has no problem checking anyone, including staff and guest contributors. Nadine had no problem telling Emmanuel Akitobi "Emmanuel needs to drop some data to prove the premise to his thesis… and his need to post this "WE NEED TO EDUCATE OURSELVES" ARTICLE, because this is sounding suspiciously like a, "You ignant niggaz need to understaaaand…", post. Emmanuel should PROVE that this post was necessary on THIS site, given the comments, on THIS SITE." Yes sir, honest feedback. And we all know Sergio is "challenged" and put on blast on a regular basis (of which he handles quite, I must say). Not to mention my guy Andre Seawood, he gets little or no rest. Heck, on August 10, Justsaying said the following to Tambay: "Before the film is addressed, Tambay, you need to be addressed on your approach in €œreviewing this film€/providing your inquisition, interpretations, and reactions and then sharing it with your audience. I think your anticipation of the film has placed you in a weird position as a critic/film reviewer and dare I say YOU SET YOURSELF UP". I'm laughing because now we have Masha Dowell getting her feet wet… "LOL, I can't believe you told the entire movie! This was more a book report/summary than a review. I should have stopped reading, but oh well" … "Hmmm. I agree w/ the poster who said this was a summary, not a review" …"Also, I think you meant "New Line" instead of "New Lion" in the beginning." Okay, now it's my turn :-) I sure am glad I saw your (Masha) reply before I read the post. I mean, I didn't read the post because of your comment. I would have been pissed off if you dropped the whole movie on me *lol*. You're just like an old refrigerator on it's last leg… can't keep nothing in very long :-) But since I am here, I think I'll add to your baptismal… I mean add a little constructive feedback. Well, your interviews have been a little flat and uneventful. Drop the cookie-cutter questions. Adopt the mindset that they are no better than you and they should be happy that you're interviewing them. I believe the best interviewers ask questions that others don't. In other words, jack-up your slack. Give us that person in you that you presented when S&A highlighted your journey. Yeah, that's right, I've been following you since you first hit the spot and I've watched your youtube series, so make a brotha proud.

Masha Dowell

I didnt tell the whole movie. I gave my thoughts :) I love the comments…

Britni Danielle

Hmmm. I agree w/ the poster who said this was a summary, not a review.

I've never seen the original film (hides black card), so I wasn't trying to constantly compare it, which I think helped me like this one.

A few things:

*The relationship between Stix & Sparkle was never in doubt. He didn't like Sister romantically, he wanted to manage the girls and wanted her on board in the group.

*The goals of the sisters were clear throughout. Sister wanted to get the hell out of her mama's house, Sparkle wanted to sing and be a songwriter, and Dee was headed to medical school. Each achieved their goals, just not in the way they thought they would.

*I agree w/ you about Mike Epps. He played that role!

*The only BIG thing I kept wondering about is how the girls could sneak out so much without their mom finding out about their group until they were on TV. That lowkey bothered me.

*I wasn't confused by Emma's relationship w/ their daughters. She was overbearing & wanted to keep them on the "right" path which included school & church.

The film was fun to watch. I hadn't even thought about going to see it, but ended up at the premiere and enjoyed it immensely. Did it have a few holes? Yes, but it did a good job of making you get emotional (that Whitney solo…baaaaby….), laugh (Mike Epps was hilar), and ultimately root for the characters. I think the Akils did a good job to veer away from sticking to the original (as I was told) because then they'd REALLY have to contend with comparisons.

Oh, and TD Jakes' involvement seemed strictly financial. There were no preachy undertones.


this film lost me when they announced TD Jakes was a part of it…and the Akils fail to impress me in their films anyway. Completely mishandled….looks like they turned a gritty film into a faithbased film. This latest round of Black filmmakers are no better than tyler perry.


LOL, I can't believe you told the entire movie! This was more a book report/summary than a review. I should have stopped reading, but oh well. The tiny desire I had to see this has been extinguished. I like Carmen, Whitney, & Goapele, but probably not enough to sit through 2 hours of everyone else. Also, I think you meant "New Line" instead of "New Lion" in the beginning.

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