Houston with Sparks. (Tristar Pictures)Whitney Houston may be gone, but her legend is certainly not forgotten. And it lives on in the movie she completed just before her February 11 death, "Sparkle," in which she plays a single mother of three young daughters who are trying to break into the music business — something she had failed to do in her own youth. The trailer for the Motown musical, which hits theaters August 17, has just been released, and in it, Houston's final performance really resonates, especially the heart-tugging scene where she performs the gospel hymn "His Eye On The Sparrow" in an empty church as her daughter, who's in an abusive relationship, nurses a black eye.
But "Sparkle" isn't all heavy drama. In the beginning of the trailer, Houston shows her sense of humor when her character Emma catches her daughters (played by Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, and Tika Sumpter) watching a music performance on TV. "You all like that, huh?" she asks and starts snapping her fingers. "It makes you want to dance, huh?" One of her daughters, relieved at her mother's joking, starts snapping too and says, "Get it, mama!" — to which Houston shuts the TV off and shoots back, "I'm gonna get it, and you will too. If you guys like that you will bring home some kids you can't feed." But her girls do pursue their musical dreams and later in the trailer, the trio attempts to sneak back into their home after a nightclub performance, but Houston, in pajamas with curlers in her hair, knows something's up when she turns on the lights and all three daughters are in the same bed. "My babies! I know ya'll don't love each other that much."
The role of single mother Emma was one Houston knew she could take on. "I have an 18-year-old daughter," she told "Access Hollywood." "I felt love that a woman has for her children in the late 60s, trying to keep a father together. Single mother. Hi. I just felt that passion for it. When it was suggested that I play the mother I said, 'OK, I think I can do this. I've had a lot of practice.'" The project "was definitely her baby," Sparks, who plays Sparkle, told Entertainment Weekly after Houston's death. "You could see the pride on her face when we wrapped. She was so excited that this was finally happening."
"Sparkle," which also stars Cee-Lo Green and Mike Epps, is a remake of the 1976 movie inspired by the success of the Supremes. About a decade ago, R&B singer Aaliyah had been cast as Sparkle, but after her 2001 death in a plane crash, the project was temporarily scrapped.
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