OLD SCHOOL VIDEO PICK
Sparkle
SPARKLE
Review By: By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

Year Released: 1976
Running Time: 98
Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Sam O'Steen
Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees
Screenwriter: Joel Schumacher
One of my all-time favorite movie musicals to emerge from the 1970's is the Warner Bros. movie, "Sparkle."

This coming of age drama directed by Sam O'Steen ("Cool Hand Luke," "Chinatown" and "The Graduate") is a classic in every sense of the word. I am eagerly waiting to see what "Jumping the Broom" director Salim Akil and his wife, Mara Brock Akil (BET's "The Game") are planning to do with the Sony Pictures remake "Sparkle" which is slated for release on Aug. 17.

When I spoke with Akil during the "Jumping the Broom" press junket he mentioned many of the original songs from the soundtrack of the film will be in the remake. You may recall that Curtis Mayfield composed the original film's score and the "Sparkle" soundtrack featured the movie's songs performed by Aretha Franklin.

While I have certainly included "Sparkle" before as one of N2Entertainment.net's "Old School Video Picks," it just seems fitting to give this fantastic movie some additional play in light of the death of Whitney Houston who makes her final big screen appearance in the film, and since I recently interviewed Terrence Jenkins who is currently in the hit movie, "Think Like a Man" and is also starring in the "Sparkle" remake.

Jenkins talked about working with Whitney Houston in the film and his regrets of not spending more time with her. (That interview with Jenkins is in my "Reel Movie News" section).

I have to say I'm a little puzzled by some of the casting in this new "Sparkle." Derek Luke ("Antwoine Fisher" and "Glory Road"), who I absolutely love, is playing Stix. Really? In the original movie, pretty boy Phillip Michael Thomas was fantastic in that role. Although Luke is a great actor, I just don't see him as Stix. Hope I'm wrong and he surprises me and nails the part.

Comedian Mike Epps as Satin also seems wrong. Blaxploitation star Tony King ("Hell Up In Harlem" and "Bucktown") was great too.

Personally, I think Leon would have made a perfect Satin this time around. Satin was a tall, dark, handsome cat. Look at his pic at the bottom left of the poster above. Again, we'll have to see what Epps brings. Carmen Ejogo ("Pride and Glory") as "Sister" (Lonette McKee's part) should be OK along with Omari Hardwick portraying Dorian Harewood's character Levi.

Jordin Sparks seems like a very smart and good choice as Sparkle, the central character that made a star out of Irene Cara. Again, I hope this "Sparkle" exceeds my expectations because the bar has been set very high with the original.

It would be great if the directors and producers of the film reach out to Thomas, Cara and some of the other film's stars and have them attend the premiere.

Either way, I believe "Sparkle" will shine on the big screen once again and can't wait to see it. If you haven't seen the 1976 movie "Sparkle," you owe it to yourself to check it out.

In the meantime, check out my review. "Sparkle centers around three Harlem sisters played by Lonette McKee ("The Cotton Club" and the upcoming "Honey 2"), Irene Cara ("Fame"), and Dwan Smith. They form a girl group known as Sister and the Sisters who are loosely based on the Supremes' rags to riches story. Sister (McKee) fronts the trio, while Sparkle ( Cara) and Delores ( Smith) provide the back-up harmonies.

Guiding the group with his songwriting skills is Sparkle's adoring boyfriend Stix (a young Philip Michael Thomas before his "Miami Vice" days). And Levi (Dorian Harewood, "Gothika") is his friend. Stix has big plans for the young women. Sister and the Sisters are the real deal.

And soon they are making a name for themselves playing all over town in local talent shows wowing audiences with soul stirring songs like "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" and "Look into Your Heart." For the record, the scene in "Sparkle" where Thomas tries to get Cara to open up more while singing "Look into Your Heart," is one of the most touching and passionate musical singing duos you'll see and hear.

But just as Sister and the Sisters start to make it big in the music business, their lives take a dramatic turn when a pimp and drug dealer named Satin (Tony King, "Hell Up in Harlem") enters it. He demands a piece of the action and even makes Sister his girl, but ultimately physically abuses her and turns her into a drug addict.

Written by Joel Schumacher ("Batman & Robin" and "Phone Booth"), "Sparkle" rises above clichéd melodrama thanks largely to its strong cast, notably Cara and Thomas.

Here's my Philip Michael Thomas story. Thomas grew up in my hometown of San Bernardino, California. He actually lived three houses down from my family and went to San Bernardino High School with my oldest brother, John. Thomas' father owned a small electrical repair company and Philip would often accompany him on the jobs. I was about nine years old at the time, but I remember this guy with curly, shiny black hair and the prettiest olive green eyes I'd ever seen, standing next to his father as he was repairing an overhead lighting fixture in my room. I asked him his name and he told me. I also asked him if he wanted to become an electrician like his dad. He told me no and that he was going to be a big movie star. I just smiled and skipped away with my Barbie doll in hand not thinking twice of what he said. Of course years later that scenario is rather funny to me. I have since interviewed Thomas and we've had a good laugh about it.

While "Sparkle" may have introduced Thomas to urban audiences, it was his Broadway debut in in the 1971 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "No Place to Be Somebody," that further catapulted his career. However, it was Thomas' star turn as Ricardo Tubbs, the nattily attired undercover cop in the 1980s TV series, "Miami Vice" that made Thomas a household name.