Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Quick Reviews: Sparkle, Hit and Run
"Sparkle" primarily interested me because it's a remake of a movie from 1976 that was said to have been inspired by the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes. So I expected its plot to have a lot of similarity to "Dreamgirls," but was surprised by how much it was not like the saga of the Supremes (other than there being a singing group comprised of three young women). There was a lot more melodrama (although, based on the Wikipedia entry for the original, not quite as much as there used to be) in the story of Sparkle (Jordin Sparks), who is a songwriter but doesn't have the confidence to be a solo act. She and her sisters (Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter) form a group that looks to be on the way to stardom despite the disapproval of their mother (Whitney Houston) until an abusive husband and an addiction to drugs get in the way. Despite the plot machinations, this was almost a very good film. But Sparks just isn't commanding enough to be the superstar that Sparkle is supposed to become. Ejogo is the real star of the three sisters in the group. And seeing Whitney Houston perform the gospel hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" made me sad, because we can only imagine how it would have sounded had she been in her prime, before her own addictions and bad marriage set her on a path to her untimely death. My grade: C-plus.
I was surprised at how much I liked "Hit and Run." It's the story of a former bank robbery getaway driver (Dax Shepard) who leaves Witness Protection to drive his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) to Los Angeles for an important job interview, which puts them both in jeopardy of being killed by his old bank-robbing pals (including Bradley Cooper) thanks to her ex-boyfriend's jealousy. At first I cringed at the arrival of the most inept U.S. Marshal in history (Tom Arnold), but even his character became tolerable after a while. And there's quite a bit of pro-gay stuff, despite the jokes about prison rape (which you see, in a censored version, in the movie's trailer). There's a gay cop who uses an app called Pouncer -- not Grindr, Pouncer (or maybe it's spelled Pouncr?) -- and learns of the homosexuality of another character, and a discussion about the use of the word "fag" for someone who's "lame." Kristin Chenoweth has a fun supporting role, and Bell and Shepard, a real-life couple who, according to Wikipedia, refuse to get married until same-sex marriage is again legal in California, have a sweet chemistry. This movie didn't drum up much box office but deserves a better fate. My grade: B-plus.