TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Akil Production Company and Stage 6 Films present a PG-13, 116 minute musical drama directed by Salim Akil, written by Mara Brock Akil and Howard Rosenman with a theater release of August 17, 2012.
The story opens at the Discovery Club in the center of Motown, Detroit, 1968, Black (Cee-Lo Green) is on stage singing a song, found on the movie’s soundtrack,’ I’m a man’, to a packed house. By the way the soundtrack is pretty good in an R&B Gospel fashion with Cee-Lo’s song as well as Jordin Sparks being the top tunes to listen too. Sadly Houston does not have a bigger vocal part in the movie to allow more of her voice on the soundtrack as well.
Sitting back stage at the club getting ready to perform is Sister Anderson (Carmen Ejogo), singing a song written by her youngest sister Sparkle (Jordin Sparks). You see both girls live at home with their other sister Dolores (Tika Sumpter) and their single mother Emma (Whitney Houston). Emma’s life did not quite turn out as she expected so she really keeps an eye on the girls trying to keep them on the right path of God, church and religion. Sister is 30 years old, always aspiring for bigger things in life but not always willing to work for them, very much the rebel of the family, Dolores is looking at college and becoming a doctor and Sparkle well she wants to be a star someday but all three are trapped in the shadow of their mother’s failed dreams.
When the girls meet Stix (Derek Luke) and his friend Levi (Omari Hardwick) their life soon takes a turn into the world of music. Stix becomes their manager as he launches the girl group into the spotlight at a local talent contest with Sister as lead and Sparkle and Dolores as back-up. Not exactly what Sparkle had planned but either was the relationship she begins to forge with Stix. Since Emma would not approve of the girls dreams of a life on stage since she failed at it herself each night of their performance they had to sneak out of the house keeping their rising popularity away from Emma finding out.
Levi soon professes his love for Sister but she soon turns towards a richer pot of gold, Satin Struthers (Mike Epps), a comedian that has made it big in the white world using the black community as a the brunt of his material. Soon Sister decides to jump the train to a faster track but little does she know it won’t be a smooth ride. The biggest bump in the beginning was dinner with her family and the local Reverend (Michael Beach) when she announces her upcoming nuptials to Satin, a man despised by Emma. This scene actually made for one of the most dramatic yet comedic moments in the story.
We all see it coming, yes she married the wrong man, drugs and brutality soon ensue. Most of the times but not all, mother is usually right especially when it comes to men. I must say that Whitney Houston does an honorable performance in this role which of course as we all know was her last. It’s such a shame that the role of Sister so closely reflected the true life of Whitney which eventually caused her death and the disappearance of one truly talented woman with a vocal gift from God. Not too far from the effects that a bad relationship and drugs played on Sister’s character in this story.
As the girls careers take off, mother finds out and while Columbia Records is out to sign the trio their dreams come crashing down. No longer will Sister be the next Diana Ross and Sparkle the next Smokey Robinson with a gift to write beautiful songs. In the light of day things don’t quite look as polished as in the dark of night. Overall though family is always family no matter what happens, secrets are kept, walls are torn down, dreams do come true, not all but some, relationships fall apart and some come back together all for an evening with Sparkle.
The film of course is dedicated to Whitney Houston and rightfully so. It starts off a little on the weak side but once the writers start to develop the characters the film takes a turn for the best. Very much on the same foundation as “Dream Girls” although this director does not quite make as big a mark with the story in the beginning but truly makes up for it towards the end albeit sometimes making you feel like you expect a bit more. A solid performance by Houston you can almost tell she was relating to the story both professionally and personally. Once again, it is a sad day to see such true talent taken before her time by the faults of her own and not that of God. Ejogo is not quite the Beyoncé of this story but she definitely shines as does Sumpter who plays a stronger character in a smaller role. Epps hits his mark as the man to hate, Hardwick the dreamer that we feel sorry for as we relate his life to ourselves and Luke the perfect man that every girl wishes to fall in love with in life. But it is little Miss American Idol winner herself, Jordin Sparks that does a superb job as a girl out to change her life, follow her dreams and become a star. Even though the film is not as strong as “Dream Girls” it truly finds its niche and is definitely worth a watch on the big screen. Absolutely enjoyed and appreciated for its music, cat references and talents both old and new with two and half paws out of four by Jon Patch.
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