“Sparkle”

SparkleBy Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
February 10, 2007

Before Dreamgirls hit cineplexes in 2006, there was Sparkle.

Released in 1976, the low-budget movie (which is also loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes) achieved somewhat of a cult following among fans that enjoy a good cry along with their kitsch. Sparkle tells the rags-to-riches (and rags again, for some of the characters) tale of three sisters with gorgeous voices. There’s Sister (Lonette McKee), Sparkle (Irene Cara, Fame), and Delores (Dwan Smith), who team up with a couple of players (including a very young Philip Michael Thomas, pre-Miami Vice) to form a singing group.

Because the men add little oomph to the outfit, the quintet becomes an all-girl trio and is renamed the redundant (and hysterical) Sister and the Sisters.

But because this movie is called Sparkle and not Sister, we know that Irene Cara’s character is the one to watch. Cara is a joy to listen to when she unleashes her powerful pipes. And as the much put-upon Sister, McKee is convincing and earns the viewer’s sympathy.

Set in the 1950’s, the movie tackles racism, sexism, jealousy, and both chemical and physical abuse. While it is overly dramatic and liberally serves up sloppy doses of soap opera clichés, the film also is highly watchable because of its over-the-top campiness.

 

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