Whitney Houston's cinematic swan
song did not screen by WW's press deadlines. It turns out to be a mere
footnote to a life mired in tragedy.
could have been the beginning of Whitney Houston's climb back into
relevancy and a potential second act to her once bright career in music
and film. Sadly, it is merely a footnote in the rockier pages of her
life story, coming as it does some six months after Houston passed away.
It renders her performance as the disapproving mother of a late '60s
girl group far more melancholic than it should be. Because, even though
she cedes top billing to former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, Houston serves as the heart of this fantastical story set in Motown-era Detroit.
Her character, Emma, is a God-fearing woman whose own shot at musical
stardom fell short. Her daughters Sister (Carmen Ejogo), Sparkle
(Sparks), and Dee (Tika Sumpter) are forced to sneak out of the family
home to perform their sultry, poppy tunes. Urged on by their manager
(and Sparkle's beau) Stix (Derek Luke), the group, Sister & Her
Sisters, catches fire from the get-go, earning a televised spot opening
for Aretha Franklin.
There are, of course, dramatics along the way, most coming in the
guise of a black comedian, played with oozing unctuousness by Mike Epps,
who takes up with Sister, introduces her to drugs, and is both verbally
and physically abusive. But this is a story of redemption and
self-realization peppered with musical performances. It's cinematic
comfort food in that respect, and knowing that will help you navigate
past the more ridiculous plot points, the sketchy racial politics, and
some fairly shallow acting. If you're able to simply accept Sparkle
as the pure fantasy it is, your chances of enjoyment are increased
tenfold. Dig any deeper below the surface, and the hollow shell will be