Sparkle (2012)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V 2-; L -3; S/N -5. Running time: 1 hour 34 min.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
‘Honor your father and mother’—this is the first commandment
with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may
live long on the earth.’ And, fathers (and mothers), do not
provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
1 Timothy 6:9

Emma with her youngest daughter Sparkle.

2012 TriStar Pictures

This remake of a 1976 film is being talked about mainly because Whitney Houston died just three months after playing the role of Emma, a single mother of three sisters with show biz aspirations. The sisters (listed according to age) Sister (Tika Sumpter), Delores (Carmen Ejogo), and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), are very different in temperament and goals, but they are all talented musically and agree to sneak out at night to sing together at various Detroit venues.

Once an aspiring singer herself, Emma had fallen to the temptations of the ever-present drugs and sex of the music business. Now a reformed church going single parent, she is determined that her girls will not follow in her path. Catching them and lecturing them sternly, she asks, “Is not my life enough of a cautionary tale for you girls?” Wow, talk about irony!

Calling themselves “Sister and Sisters,” the trio catch on, with Sparkle in the background writing their songs and providing back-up with Delores to Sister—until…The plot becomes complicated, with one sister marrying the wrong guy (Mike Epps as Satin—get the name?) and going to jail; Delores following her hearts desire to medical school; and Sparkle—well, she lives up to her name, The three are wonderful singing together, but the audience will be interested mainly in the one song that Whitney Houston performs, a powerful rendition of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” As actress and singer, she leaves us with a powerful impression of what we have lost.

A good scene for preachers—Emma is trying to talk Sparkle out of a musical career. She admits that her daughter has a great gift, but it is one that should be used only in church, to “praise the Lord,” she says. Sparkle comes back by saying that one can praise God in other places also, that she believes she has been given her gift for a broader venue than just church.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What are the goals for each sister—for Sister; for Delores; for Sparkle?

2. Why is their mother Emma so opposed to their going into the entertainment business? What do you think of the girls’ sneaking out at night for their gigs?

3. How is the church and clergy depicted? Is the pastor portrayed in a comical light, or as one who could seriously help the family were he called upon?

4. What do you think of Sparkle telling her mother that she is using her God-given gift in a responsible way? Can you praise the Lord through pop music? Though if so, does the use of very short and tight dresses send a conflicting message?

5. What do you think of the appropriateness of Whitney Houston’s only song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” ? For the story line, as well as for Houston’s life?