The trailer for Whitney Houston's cinematic swan song has arrived. (Watch the video below.) Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 film by the same name, follows three Detroit sisters who form a fast-rising Motown-era singing group, but quickly get swallowed up by drugs, abuse, and other pitfalls of celebrity. Houston, the film's executive producer, plays the girls' mother, a former singer who suffered the same plights. It's the first film in 16 years for the Bodyguard star, who died in February. The original movie starred Irene Cara in the titular role now played by American Idol's Jordin Sparks, spawned several hit singles, and served as the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical-turned-movie Dreamgirls. Sparkle hits theaters August 10. Here, four things critics are buzzing about:
1. Houston gives a "powerful last performance"
It may have been 16 years since Houston last starred in a movie, but she hasn't lost an ounce of her trademark radiance, says Billy Johnson Jr. at Yahoo. Her comedic timing is perfect as she suggests that "dancing provocatively is a precursor to unplanned pregnancies." But it's the gravity she brings to the trailer's big moment — a soulful, teary-eyed performance of the gospel hymn "His Eye on the Sparrow" — that hints at the brilliance of her performance. One particularly poignant line, delivered by Houston, stabs your heart, says Josh Rosenblatt at Hollywood Life. "Was my life not a cautionary tale for you?" she asks her daughter.
2. But her role is deceptively small
Houston is clearly just a supporting player, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. Of course, she's "the most marketable thing about the movie," so she'll undoubtedly dominate the promo materials. But that will only lead to disappointment when audiences see the full film. Even if Jordin Sparks emerges as a worthy breakout, it will be "hard not to think she's getting in the way of the real star."
3. Sparkle may fail to live up to the original
Missing from this trailer is any mention of the movie's heavy drug subplot, which was the most affecting element of the 1976 original, says Jen Yamato at Movieline. That film had a "gritty realness," as the characters desperately battled the darker effects of stardom — something that's missing from the remake's "glossy" trailer. Indeed, it's hard to see Sparkle as anything more than "a not-particularly necessary remake of a not-particularly-classic film," says Rich.
4. But it should still be a success
Sparkle "looks a bit more like a TV movie" than a major feature release, says Kevin Jagernauth at Indie Wire, but still exhibits some true "crowd-pleasing potential," indicating that it could be a box-office hit. And the painful parallels between Houston's real-life experience and the character she plays adds crucial emotional punch, says Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant. Taking Houston's involvement out of the equation, Sparkle would be merely "a serviceable addition to the musical melodrama sub-genre." But given Whitney's presence, says Yamato, buying tickets in August is "a no-brainer."