SPARKLE (Salim Akil). 116 minutes. Opens Friday (August 17). See listings. Rating: NN
Whitney Houston's swan song falls flat in Sparkle, a dull remake of a 1970s movie. The late, great songstress delivers a stiff performance as a strict mother to musically inclined girls, yet her mere presence, for lack of better material, still manages to be the film's primary appeal.
The soulless Motown-era musical stars American Idol winner Jordin Sparks as the titular Sparkle, a songwriter and singer constantly overshadowed by her two sisters - just as Sparks is by the much better actors portraying her siblings.
Carmen Ejogo has a ferocious presence as Sister, the eldest, whose infinite sex appeal preordains that she will become a tragic head case. Meanwhile, Tika Sumpter sprinkles some fun into the mix as whip-smart, headstrong sister Dee, whose sass is a breath of fresh air.
However, everyone chokes on a screenplay that strings together clichés, atrocious dialogue and downright illogical plotting.
Even the musical numbers fail to take off, despite the fact that talented hip-hop producer Salaam Remi serves as composer. Houston does find a moment to deliver one last gasp, which given the tragic circumstances leaves you waiting to exhale.