"Why would the Lord give me this gift if I wasn't supposed to use it?" Sparkle Anderson tearfully asks when her mother discovers her daughters' secret lives as Motown singing sensations. "Sparkle," Mrs. Anderson replies firmly, "you can have a gift. It's how you use it that matters."
Sparkle, played by American Idol-winner Jordin Sparks, spends the movie learning the truth her mother, played by Whitney Houston, learned the hard way.
A long-time fan of the original 1976 musical drama inspired by The Supremes, Houston acquired the rights to Sparkle in 2000 and set out to recreate the story of three sisters whose rise to fame from the church choir was fraught with pain and heartache.
Filmed last year before Houston died, Houston's version (rated PG-13 for sensuality, mild language, and drug use) is set in 1960s Motown, where budding singer-songwriter Sparkle Anderson lives with her sisters and strict, religious mother.
Mrs. Anderson, whose career as a professional singer nearly destroyed her, keeps a tight rein on her daughters, volunteers at her church, and hosts a youth Bible study in the effort to redeem her shattered life. Redemption has only one Author and though referenced often, His grace and joy are notably absent from Mrs. Anderson's religiosity.
Believing that fame will lead to happiness, Sparkle's older sister-Sister-played to the T by Carmen Egojo, is willing to market not only her voice but her sexual allure to achieve her goal. Personal and relational decay result.
Though Sparkle won't grovel before the fickle idol of fame, she struggles between obeying her mother and following her dream-an unnecessary dichotomy if both Sparkle and Mrs. Anderson properly understood God's giftings, God's callings, and God's sovereignty.
A cautionary tale that bears some parallels to Houston's own life, Sparkle's question of how to use God-ordained talents is a valid one. It's a question all Christians, called to be ambassadors of redemption in this sin-sodden world, must answer.