Bishop T.D. Jakes (“Jumping the Broom”) of Dallas megachurch fame and his coproducers remake the 1976 film “Sparkle” for a wholesome dream-your-dream story of nineteen-year-old Sparkle (Jordin Sparks, “American Idol” winner, Season 6). Salim Akil (“Jumping the Broom”) directs a screenplay by his wife Mara Brock Akil that is graced with a few songs written by executive music consultant R. Kelly. Sparkle is the youngest of three sisters raised in the strict household of Emma (executive producer Whitney Houston, who receives an “In Loving Memory” dedication in the end credits). It’s the 1968 of Berry Gordy and Martin Luther King. Emma, a failed singer back in the day, lets young people from her church watch Cream sing “Sunshine of Your Love” on her new color TV prior to her weekly Bible study session. Sparkle sings in the church choir, but sneaks out at night to taste the Motown music scene. Set and partly shot in Detroit, “Sparkle” unexpectedly lacks establishing shots and exteriors for period locales. A few bars of Nina Simone’s 1965 song “Feeling Good” does as much to catch the era as the diligent research of costume designer Ruth E. Carter. The affirming arc of Sparkle’s prospect of signing a Columbia Records contract is a safely normative mother-daughter saga of simplistic reconciliation. For sharper commentary on African-Americana, though, don’t miss the Sunday dinner discourse on Coons and Sambos when a famous comedian admits he mostly goes to church “for material” and must exit before trying Emma’s dessert. With Carmen Ejogo, Derek Luke, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick, Curtis Armstrong, Michael Beach. 111m. (Bill Stamets)
“Sparkle” opens Friday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.