Sparkle (1976)

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Sparkle (1976) Movie Poster Image
Predictable rise-to-fame tale with gangs, drugs, violence.
  • PG
  • 1976
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's message is that staying focused on a goal and not allowing yourself to be sidetracked by negative influences is how you achieve success.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are several shady characters in this film, and it's clear that getting involved with them is the downfall of some of the main characters. Sparkle, however, who manages to steer clear of them and avoid trouble, all while being completely committed and passionate about her goal, eventually achieves her dream of musical stardom.

Violence

A drug kingpin regularly beats his girlfriend, who often appears with bruises on her face. Two men get into a brutal street brawl. Police officers fire shots at a fleeing suspect during a drug bust. Gangsters threaten a man with a gun at close range.

Sex

Couples kiss and make out on-screen and sometimes are shown relaxing in bed semi-clothed.

Language

Occasional swearing and racial slurs, including "s--t" and the "N" word. Though the words aren't heard often, they stand out.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many of the singing scenes feature performances in nightclubs, where people smoke and drink. Several characters smoke cigarettes and cigars regularly. One of the three main characters dates a drug kingpin and sometimes snorts cocaine. Later she gets involved in other drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sparkle is the 1976 movie with Irene Cara, not the remake with Whitney Houston. It doesn't gloss over the many potential obstacles on the road to fame: There are drug dealers, mobsters, and abusive boyfriends, all of whom might derail a talented singer's dreams, and the film shows all of their unsavory behavior. There's some drug use (including cocaine), plenty of smoking, and a good amount of drinking in bars and at dinner parties. There are also some brutal domestic-abuse scenes and occasional swearing (including the "N" word).

What's the story?

Teenage SPARKLE (Irene Cara) dreams of stardom, and her boyfriend Stix (Philip Michael Thomas) is determined to make it happen by creating an all-girl singing act with Sparkle and her two sisters. The group is a success, but fame brings its own dangers, including unwanted attention from gangsters, ill-advised relationships with thugs, and the temptation of drugs. Yes, fame is at the end of this long and bumpy road, but it's not clear if eveyone in the film will make it there unscathed.

Is it any good?

Sparkle is an inspiring film, but also a predictable one. Cara and her sisters, especially Lonette McKee as the aptly-named Sister, shine on stage, and the musical numbers are excellent. Offstage, however, the story takes on a movie-of-the-week quality, as one character after another falls victim to the standard pitfalls of fame.

One gets involved with gangsters, another takes up with an abusive thug and gets hooked on drugs. Others give up on fame and decide to pursue other goals. Only Sparkle remains focused on her musical dreams, and after a second-act falling out, only Stix is there to guide her eventual rise to fame. The ending is satisfying, but was easy to predict almost from the very beginning.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the choices the three sisters make. How do the decisions they make affect their lives? How did Sparkle avoid the pitfalls her sisters didn't?

  • Do you think the film paints a realistic portrait of life in Harlem in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the connection between the entertainment business and organized crime?

  • Do you think this story is ready for a modern-day remake? Who would you cast as Sparkle?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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