Sparkle (2012 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Salim Akil
Produced by Debra Martin Chase
TD Jakes
Whitney Houston
Curtis Wallace
Salim Akil
Mara Brock Akil
Written by Mara Brock Akil
Howard Rosenman
Based on Sparkle 
by Joel Schumacher
Howard Rosenman[1]
Starring Jordin Sparks
Whitney Houston
Derek Luke
Mike Epps
Tamela Mann
Carmen Ejogo
Tika Sumpter
Omari Hardwick
Cee Lo Green
Music by R. Kelly
Curtis Mayfield
Kier Lehman
André DeJuan
Cinematography Anastas N. Michos
Edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • August 17, 2012 (2012-08-17)
Running time
116 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million[3]
Box office $24,637,469 [4]

The musical film, a remake of the original 1976 Sparkle with film stars an ensemble cast including Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Whitney Houston, Mike Epps, Cee Lo Green, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Tamela Mann, Cory Pritchett and Omari Hardwick. The 2012 version was directed by Salim and Mara Brock Akil and produced by Stage 6 Films. The film features single mother Emma Anderson (Whitney Houston), who raises her three daughters with strict Christian principles, as the girls struggle to chase their own dreams and agenda. The remake takes place in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s during the Motown era.[5]

Sparkle features songs from the original film written by soul musician Curtis Mayfield as well as new compositions by R&B artist R. Kelly, who served as the executive music consultant.[6][7][8] The film was the debut for American Idol winner and pop/R&B singer Jordin Sparks as an actress. It was also Whitney Houston’s final feature film role before her death on February 11, 2012.[9]

Plot summary[edit]

Emma Anderson (Whitney Houston) did not want her daughters Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), Delores "Dee" (Tika Sumpter), and Tammy "Sister" (Carmen Ejogo) to make the same mistakes she did pursuing a musical career that led to drugs, alcohol, and teenage motherhood. As an overprotective single mom, she looks to keep them from stardom and bad boys by raising them with strict Christian principles and keeping a close eye on their activities. Despite Emma's hovering, the girls assemble a group and wow the crowds with Sister's sexy rendition of “Giving Him Something He Can Feel." They enjoy newfound stardom in the Detroit club scene before their mother has even realized they’ve been sneaking out every night. The group has more success, even opening for Aretha Franklin on a television show and engaging in talks about a record deal with Columbia Records. However, Dee and Sparkle find out about Sister’s abusive relationship with local celebrity Satin Struthers (Mike Epps). After the abuse comes to a tragic end, the girls split up and Sparkle must overcome her fears of stage fright to chase her dream and ultimately become the star she was destined to be.


Whitney Houston as Emma Anderson - An overprotective, retired professional singer. She forbids her three daughters from pursuing a career in music due to her own past experiences.

Jordin Sparks as Sparkle Anderson - A 19-year-old girl and the youngest sibling in her family. She has a passion for singing but is unable to pursue a career due to her foreboding mother's rules against pursuing a career in the music industry.

Tika Sumpter as Delores "Dee" Anderson - The middle child of the family. She's 24 years of age, confident and smart. Her ambition is to attend medical school to become a doctor.

Carmen Ejogo as Tammy "Sister" Anderson - The oldest of the three sisters who displays more rebellion and a stronger desire for the fast life than either of her sisters.

Derek Luke as Stix - an ambitious manager of Sister and her sisters' singing group, and Sparkle's love interest.

Mike Epps as Satin Struthers - A comedian in a relationship with Sister, whom he abuses.

Omari Hardwick as Levison "Levi" Robinson - Stix's oldest cousin who is in love with Sister and tries to prove it to her.

Terrence J as Red - An MC at the Discovery Club

Cee Lo Green as Black - A chubby, flirty well-known male singer that sings at the Discovery Club.

Tamela Mann as Mrs. Sarah Waters - Emma's honest close friend

• Brely Evans as Tune Ann Waters

Michael Beach as Reverend Bryce - The Reverend of the Andersons' Church


The original Sparkle was produced by The Robert Stigwood Organization in 1975 and released by Warner Bros. Pictures in 1976. It starred Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee and Mary Alice, with songs and score composed and produced by Curtis Mayfield. One song from the Sparkle soundtrack, "Something He Can Feel", became a hit single for both Aretha Franklin (in 1976) and En Vogue (in 1992).


In the mid-1990s, BrownHouse Productions, run by Whitney Houston and Debra Martin Chase, secured the rights to a Sparkle remake from Warner Bros. Houston had intended to cast R&B singer Aaliyah in the lead role as Sparkle, but due to Aaliyah's untimely death in August 2001, plans to remake the film were put on hold. In 2005, Raven-Symoné was cast in the leading role, but she dropped out shortly after.[10] Following the 2011 release of their first feature, Jumping the Broom, Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, the creative team behind the TV series The Game and Girlfriends, took Sparkle as their next project, with Houston executive producing and starring as the mother of the three girls.[11][12] Following her initial audition Jordin Sparks had been called back several times before finally landing the title role. Brandy Norwood had auditioned for the role of Deloris but the role was given to Tika Sumpter. Brandy was given the role of "Chardonnay" on The Game.[13]

Production began on October 10, 2011, in Detroit.[14] Filming wrapped up in early November 2011, with a release date scheduled for August 17, 2012.[5] The official trailer for Sparkle was released on April 2, 2012 and premiered on Today[15][16] with the release of the trailer the films producer Debra Martin Chase said she had mixed emotions with the trailer's release "On the one hand, I'm so excited about the movie and we're really happy with how it turned out," she said. "(But) just to have it said yet again that this is Whitney's last performance, it's hard. It's hard." [17]

Howard Rosenman, the original's producer-writer and executive producer of the 2012 remake, said a novelization of the film will be released on August 7, 2012 by Simon & Schuster.[18] Rosenman said Houston was influenced by the original film as a girl and once went to see it every day for a week when she was a teenager.[19] It apparently helped plant the dream in her to become a singer. When the new version was coming together, Rosenman approached her to play the girls' mother. She has two musical numbers in the film and on the soundtrack. Rosenman plans to team with director Joel Schumacher, one of the screenwriters of the original 1976 film, to add five new songs to those by Curtis Mayfield (in the original) and R. Kelly (in the 2012 version) for a Broadway musical of Sparkle.[20]


In December 2011, Sony announced the United States release date for Sparkle would be set for August 10, 2012.[21][22] This was later pushed back by a week to August 17, 2012 due to Whitney Houston's death.[23][24]

Critical response[edit]

The movie received mixed to positive reviews.[25] Sparkle received an A on Cinemascore. Critics' reviews for Sparkle so far have been generally mixed to positive, receiving a 56% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and a consensus stating: "While undeniably melodramatic and old-fashioned, Sparkle transcends its formulaic trappings thanks to Salim Akil's empathetic direction and strong performances from a committed cast" based on 88 reviews with an average rating of 5.7/10.[26] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 55 out of 100 based on 25 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "mixed or average reviews".[27]] Others have been far more critical claiming that the Akils’ rendition simply didn’t do the original justice. “They’re juggling too many projects at once and their work is suffering,” one critic said.[28] The film is criticized for having a plot with no continuity and “whole scenes [that] are wasted on foreshadowing character development that never actually develop”[29] One critique even remembers an African American viewer who shook her head when the movie ended claiming, “it’s too packaged. It doesn’t have soul like the first Sparkle.”[30] added some of the more negative reviews too.

Critical praise has particularly been given to Carmen Ejogo's performance. Film critic Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three stars, claiming Ejojo "steals the film not only in her sultry singing numbers but in her violent marriage to a snaky, evil comedian named Satin."[31] While giving the film a negative review, The Globe and Mail critic Courtney Shea stated Ejogo, in comparison to Sparks' performance, was "in fact more dynamic, sexy and, dare we say, Bootylicious than the real thing – plays hardened vulnerability to perfection, so much so that you wonder (given her 38 years) where Hollywood has been hiding her."[32] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle went as far as to suggest in his review that Ejogo's performance might place her under serious consideration for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. LaSalle comments: "...very few people will walk out of Sparkle talking about either Sparks or Houston, at least not at first. Instead they will be saying, "Who was that?" And they'll be referring to Carmen Ejogo...If there is any justice, Ejogo will become very famous very soon. As in, maybe today...It's rare to see someone become a movie star right before your eyes, but that's what happens with Ejogo in Sparkle....For an actress, this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and Ejogo plays it that way. She leaves nothing out, holds nothing back."[33]

On the other hand, lead actor Jordin Sparks did not make out with high praises. Playing the role of 19-year-old singer/songwriter Sparkle Anderson, some say she played the “good girl” role a little too well. Tasked with acting out the momma's girl role, she was often upstaged by her “sisters” and costars (Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter). The wide sentiment is that compared with the other two lively personalities, Jordin fades into the background “playing the wallflower…does the inexperienced thespian, no favors.”[28] Even worse, “To the untrained eye, one would say that Sparks is essentially playing herself as Sparkle,” one critic said.

Another widely acclaimed actor in the film, praised for his unexpected role as Satin Struthers, is Mike Epps. Europublisher calls it a “flawless performance of a very flawed character.” In the 2012 rendition, Mike Epps plays as the local celebrity and comedian who gets into a violent and tumultuous relationship with Sister. In the original, the character was a drug dealer who beats on Sister and gets her addicted to drugs. Just as dark and intimidating, “[Epps'] Satin manages to be genuinely chilling in his deadeyed sociopathology while still earning the film’s biggest laughs.”[28] They even went as far as to say he gave the best performance. His character is extremely disrespectful and uncouth, but it was raw. In an interview by Europublisher, Epps opens up about his dark and troubled past which he tapped into to put forth such a riveting role on screen. “What I been through wasn’t no fluffy shit, it’s pain …Its shit that I hide because I’m in a fluffy business and I make people laugh …” said the actor. Troubling as it was, Mike Epps delivers a powerful and disturbing role remarkably well; some call it “jaw dropping” and “uncomfortable.”[34]

Differences Between Sparkle 1976 and Sparkle 2012[edit]

Sparkle, the new version of the girl group movie of 1976, has some differences worth comparing. Critiques about the 2012 film varied with some saying “original haunts ‘Sparkle’ remake” and others who approved the new film claiming “Sparkle Still Sparkles.” When comparing the two films side by side, they still have the same theme but the plots are completely different at times.


In the 1976 version:

  • The setting is Harlem, New York in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Running time is 98 minutes
  • Sparkle's mother Effie is not against her pursuing her dream. She is actually the one that talks Sparkle into pursuing it when she was unwilling to. Effie is very much aware and included in the process of Sparkle's dream. She goes to concerts leading up the Sparkle's big performance.[35]
  • Effie is a maid; the family lives in poverty in Harlem, New York.[36]
  • Stix is the manager of the singing group in both movies but in the 1976 version he and his cousin Levi initially sing with the sisters making it a 5-person act. They later drop out when a promoter wants an all-girls group, and Stix becomes the girl’s manager instead. Also, Levi ends up in jail and is seen throughout the film.
  • Satin Struthers is a thug who beats on Sister and gets her hooked on drugs.

In the 2012 version:

  • The setting is now Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s during the Motown era.
  • Running time is longer, 112 minutes
  • Sparkle's mother Emma is totally against her daughter's dream in "Sparkle 2012." In fact, Sparkle has to sneak to do concerts leading up to the big one, the only one her mother attended.
  • Emma owns a women’s fashion shop which allows her to wear the latest fashions. The family lives in a beautiful house in a middle class suburb.
  • In 2012, Levi is seen in the beginning and disappears from the film until much later. He went from being broke unable to afford much of anything to being a hotshot sitting front and center at a nightclub. Although it is unclear what led him there, it is clear that he is in a much better financial standing and can enact his revenge on Satin Struthers.
  • Even though he still marries Sister, beats on her and gets her addicted to drugs, Satin Struthers is a hotshot comedian, not a drug dealer, as in the original Sparkle.

Gender and Sexuality[edit]

The 2012 version definitely depicts black women in a more ambitious light. The sisters are chasing more than a string of amateur nights that lead up to a fairytale demo record, like they do in the first film. From the very beginning, they are dreaming bigger, an example of which is the show at The Fillmore, where they open for Aretha Franklin. The nightclubs they perform in aren’t shady bars with slick-tongued emcees, but polished and glitzy hot spots that A&R reps use like fishing ponds. It speaks better to a generation of black women taught to get their own.[36]

In the 1976 version

  • Sparkle is extremely shy and awkward. Even when on stage, she looks completely out of place and overshadowed by her singer sisters." Sparkle the character wasn’t written to command anybody’s attention — in the original or the remake."[36] In terms of her sexuality, Sparkle and Stix end up in a hotel room saying they are too old to continue making love on the rooftop. When the desk clerk asks if they have a marriage license, Stix says "Yes" and hands him cash. The entire scene shows a Sparkle too naive to believe she initiated it.
  • Dolores flees Harlem by attending an unnamed black school, in an effort to run away from a future like her mother, "a housekeeper who travels two hours each morning to work for a white family, the Gerbers."[37]
  • Sister, driven by glamour and fame, falls victim to her own desires when she meets street thug Satin Struthers. He abuses her and gets her addicted to drugs. No longer in control of her life, she dies of a drug overdose.
  • Besides Stix, who is a wannabee music manager in both movies, the other men are all depicted as being involved in some shady business. The most obvious, Satin Struthers is a street thug and woman-beater. Levi, a neighborhood friend to the girls, becomes a running man for Struthers and gets set up for a drug sting by the end of the movie. Even as a White man, Mr. Gerber, who is Effie's employer, ends up mixed up with the Mafia as his business partners and co-lenders to Stix.

In the 2012 version

  • Sparkle is much more relatable to today's youth. Sparkle in 2012, though still insecure, is creative and ambitious. More than that she doesn't a man to define and mold her dreams. Unlike Irene Cara, Jordin Sparks' Sparkle makes it a point to describe herself as a virgin when she meets with Larry from Columbia Records to convince him to give her a contract.[37]
  • Dolores is much more intentional in agreeing to join the group to save up cash to attend medical school.This time around, Dolores is chasing higher education from the beginning, and her mother pushes her to do so. "The new Dee is a fierce protector of both her ambitions and her family, and when Dee takes action, the audience pays attention."[36]
  • Sister is still as narcissistic as ever, believing that her looks are the ticket out of poverty. She is a lot more intentional about her sexuality and she isn't afraid to show it. Her dance number to "Something He Can Feel" is strong enough to make anyone uncomfortable, but it works with her character. She is a lot more affectionate with partner Satin Struthers, climbing on his lap and telling him she's horny. These characteristics are all part of a new and modern Sister.
  • The men in the film are no longer shady menaces or hustlers. Although he is just as dangerous, Struthers is now a comedian and not a cheap shot drug dealer. It is unclear what Levi does but he has his own rags to riches story in which he appears finely dressed and seated at the front of the club where Satin is performing his awful comedy skit.


In both versions, drug addiction play an important role in Sister's downfall but 2012 gives her life, literally. In the 2012 remake, Sister is still a drug addict but it is Satin Struthers who dies, as he takes a nasty hit to the head from Dee who is trying to protect her sisters from the nasty brawl. Sister takes the fall, Dee goes off to medical school, and Sparkle achieves her dream of becoming a star and getting a Columbia Record deal. The 1976 had a much grimmer ending for Sister. She dies of a drug overdose but the ending for the rest of the cast is very unclear. Struthers disappears after getting into a weakish fight with Stix and the audience is left wondering where the bodyguards are the whole time.


Given the open-end to the movie, critiques wonder if there will be a sequel. The audience is left on a cliffhanger, maybe, since no one knows what is going to happen with Sister or if she ever turns her life around in jail. Also unclear is what happened with Sparkle. Is she a one-hit wonder or does she become the signer she was destined to be?

What is known however is that, Rosenman plans to team up with the director Joel Schumacher, one of the screenwriters of the original 1976 film, to add five new songs to those by Curtis Mayfield (in the original) and R. Kelly (in the 2012 version) for a Broadway musical of Sparkle.[19]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $11,643,342 in 2,244 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #5 at the box office.[35] Sparkle has grossed $24,397,469 domestically.[35]


Black Reel Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result
2013 Salim Akil Best Director Nominated
Twinkie Byrd Best Cast (Ensemble) Nominated
Salaam Remi Best Original Score Nominated
Mara Brock Akil Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted Nominated
Whitney Houston, Jordin Sparks, R. Kelly - "Celebrate" Best Original Song Nominated
Mike Epps Best Supporting Actor Nominated

BET Awards[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result
2013 Sparkle [38] Best Movie Nominated


Critics agreed that the movie brought back old favorites from the original like “Something He Can Feel,” “Look Into Your Heart,” “Jump” and “Hooked On Your Love.” Celebrated for its musical success, Sparkle went on to become a musical Blaxploitation film and a cult classic. Inspired by the Supremes, Sparkle incorporated sultry R&B featuring the work of an up-and-coming Curtis Mayfield at the time and vocals by Aretha Franklin. The movie became a hit with the African American community although the response was not the same for the Sparkle remake. The 1970s Blaxploitation films changed the way black men and women were portrayed in movies and marked a point in which the music drove the narrative. Known as “rhythmic scoring” the music dominates and the film follows.[39]

Original writer, Howard Rosenman recalls Warner Borthers’ John Calley telling him he’d make the movie is Curtis Mayfield wrote the music back in the summer of 1971.[40] What made it a cult classic? The movie brought a breath of fresh air to African American girls tired of unrelatable characters such as pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and addicts. The girls from Sparkle “felt like real people.”[40] Since Blaxploitation films allowed African Americans to exhibit a sense of positive outlook and confidence and concurrently, African American musicians were the ones hired to produce the confident and novel popular music.[39] To fit the theme, the 2012 version portrays black women in a more ambitious light than the original did. For starters, the classic dance number to “Something He Can Feel” is much sexier and the sisters don’t look as awkward and inexperienced as they did in the first one. The remake stars Sister front and center with a captivating and overtly sexy compilation of moves that has everyone in the audience hot for more. From Emma regaining control of her life and turning to the church to Dee’s steadfast determination to get to Medical School, the women in Sparkle exhibit strength and ambition.


The soundtrack's first official lead single is the last song recorded by Houston before her death on February 11, 2012, a duet with R&B/pop singer and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks on a song called "Celebrate".[41] The song premiered on On Air with Ryan Seacrest on May 21, 2012[42] and was made available for digital download on iTunes on June 5.[43] Whitney Houston's other track, "His Eye is on the Sparrow", debuted only one day after the premiere of "Celebrate".[44] The official music video for "Celebrate" was filmed on May 30, 2012.[45] It made its world premiere on BET's 106 & Park on June 27, 2012.[46] For the week ending August 18, 2012 Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack debuted on the Billboard 200 at #26, #7 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and #1 on the Billboard Soundtracks chart.[47]

[48] Billboard Albums[edit]

Year Album Chart Peak
2013 Sparkle R&B Albums 3
2013 Sparkle Top Soundtracks 1
2012 Sparkle R&B Albums 3
2012 Sparkle The Billboard 200 21
2012 Sparkle Top Soundtracks 1

[48] Billboard Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Peak
2012 Celebrate Adult Contemporary 26
2012 Celebrate Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 39
2012 Celebrate Japan Hot 100 Singles 39

Home media[edit]

Sparkle was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 30, 2012.[49]


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External links[edit]