A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
While there are some cautionary messages about marrying for money, allowing yourself to stay in an abusive relationship, and even not supporting your kids' passions, there are also positive themes. Sparkle, Stix, and Dolores all have big dreams: to make music and to become a doctor, respectively. Their journeys are filled with ups and downs, but none of them gives up, and by the end of the movie, they've all accomplished their goals.
Positive Role Models
Despite the two self-destructive characters, Sister and Satin, Sparkle does have several positive role models. Dolores considers singing a means to the end of getting into a good medical school and becoming a doctor; she's grateful for her mother's strict encouragement of education. Sparkle follows her dream of becoming singer-songwriter without being disrespectful to her mother. Emma seems overly rigid, but she realizes she shouldn't squash her daughter's dreams.
Violence & Scariness
Domestic abuse is depicted; soon after their marriage, Satin begins to hit Sister, who fights back. Satin also strikes Sparkle across the face. Characters are shown with bruises on their face and body. Two men nearly come to blows at a nightclub. During a climactic fight, a character is killed in self defense.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sister exudes sexuality with her sultry mode of singing, her barely there clothes, and her provocative dancing (the other two sisters are considerably more demure). In a couple of marital love scenes, Sister and Satin grope and kiss each other passionately while wearing nightclothes/lingerie. Sparkle and Stix kiss and flirt, and Sparkle mentions that she's a virgin. Emma mentions teenage hormones, premarital sex, and illegitimate children.
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Occasional strong language and insults, including a couple uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God," "hell," "whore," and "jerk." Also some racial slurs, such as "Sambo" and "coon," said by African-American characters.
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Products & Purchases
Mentions of Barry Gordy, Motown, Columbia Records, and Cadillacs.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In addition to drinking in nightclubs and parties, Sister's husband introduces her to cocaine and heroin and overindulging in alcohol. She becomes the cautionary-tale junkie by the end of the movie. Several characters smoke cigarettes -- from a mother to clubgoers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sparkle is a remake of a '70s melodrama about the many travails that face those who seek fame and fortune in the music industry. Starring late pop superstar Whitney Houston (in her final film) and former American Idol champion Jordin Sparks, the period showbiz drama will appeal to both young Idol and older Houston fans. Like most showbiz industry tales, Sparkle has a fair amount of substance use (alcohol and drugs) and sexuality (passionate foreplay, revealing outfits, and discussion of adultery, premarital sex, and teen pregnancy). Even more unsettling is the portrayal of an abusive marriage that shows a couple hitting and hurting each other (the wife-beater is eventually killed in self defense). Despite the more intense elements, though, Sparkle is ultimately inspiring for young artists who want to reach for the stars. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
It's nearly impossible not to compare Sparkle to Dreamgirls. Both films feature an American Idol veteran in her feature film debut about a Motown-era trio of female singers who must deal with the dangers that accompany showbiz dreams. But whereas Dreamgirls follows the rise and fall of full-blown celebrity, Sparkle focuses solely on the lead-up to fame. With that in mind, Sparkle is a considerably less substantial movie, but it still has several entertaining numbers, a decent debut by Sparks, and a heart-wrenching (and almost prescient) final performance by Houston.
The three sisters are examples of the various paths to stardom: Sparkle is the authentic artist who lives and breathes to write and perform songs, Dolores is talented but is more interested in a professional career as a doctor, and Sister is the materialistic one who wants the bling and attention. Some directorial missteps make Sister and Satin's abusive marriage look borderline comical, but Sparks is well cast as a charmingly self-conscious singer. And, at the very least, Houston is given her last moment to shine on screen. Her emotional performance of the gospel hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" is a highlight of the film -- and a sad reminder that sometimes fame really does kill.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.