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No sparkle in 'Glitter'

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- Dozens of pundits have predicted a change in the types of films Americans will turn to in this time of national crises. "No more 'Independence Days' (1996) and no more 'Armageddon's' (1998) in Hollywood's future," is the common chant. Escapism in entertainment will be the name of the game in the months to come, they say. If that is indeed the case, "Glitter," starring Mariah Carey, should be a smash hit. This film is total escapism without a shred of believability.

But it isn't a hit, and that may be because it's not a very good movie.

However, if you keep your expectations very, very low (you may even get a case of the bends), "Glitter" is somewhat entertaining. The story is sort of a mixture of "Purple Rain" (1984), and "A Star Is Born," (1937, 1954, 1976) with elements of Carey's own life story thrown in, too. Actually, the treatment for this rags-to-riches story was written by Carey with the final script being penned by Kate Lanier ("What's Love Got To Do With It?").

Amazingly, Carey, who has been taking acting lessons, is not a bad actress. Albeit she is merely playing herself in this film, but her thespian talents are better then those of her fellow diva Whitney Houston. Of course, that's not saying much.


Carey plays Billie Frank, a young girl raised by her single mother, Lillian (played by Valarie Pettiford). Lillian is a drunk who sings in cheap bars and is eventually forced by Social Services to give up her daughter. This abandonment fuels Billie's need for achievement as she grows up in an orphanage where she meets her two best friends for life -- and future backup singers -- Louise (played by Da Brat), and Roxanne (played by Tia Texada).

Set in the 1980s, "Glitter" takes place in the thriving nightclub world of Manhattan -- a world teeming with future wannabes. Before you can say, "I want to be an overnight singing sensation wearing as little clothing as possible," Billie gets her big break. Her break comes in the form of a hunky deejay at a popular dance club. Known as Dice (played by Max Beesley), he becomes her music producer and lover. Dice is a big player in the world of dance music and soon has Billie signed to a record label. Then -- natch -- things start to go wrong.

Billie's fame bypasses Dice's and while he feels he is just protecting her, she feels he's holding her back and making unnecessary demands on her record label. The final straw comes when she's introduced to a famous singer, Rafael (played by Eric Benet -- husband of Hallie Berry and a musican in his own right). After a jealous argument the doomed couple part ways and Billie continues her climb to fame and fortune.

Unfortunately the parting doesn't last. In what has to be one of the corniest moments in recent film history, the two pen a song together by extrasensory perception. She writes the lyrics -- while pining away for him -- and he writes the music -- while dreaming of her. When the film cuts back and forth between the two scenes, you may find yourself in need of a shot of insulin.

Don't do it!!! You'll need the stuff for the ending of this film. Not to give anything away but, somebody dies, somebody keeps on singing, and somebody finds their long-lost mommy.

Directed by actor/director Vondie Curtis Hall who helmed "Gridlock'd" in 1997 (a very good and little seen movie), "Glitter" lacks depth of any kind -- including depth of field. It's slick and by the numbers, and even the singing scenes lack sparkle.

On the plus side there is actual chemistry between Carey and Beesley. Beesley is also a musician in real life and it shows in his performance. Also, the actress who plays Billie as a very young girl in the beginning of the film, Isabel Gomez, is quite good. Terrence Howard ["Big Momma's House" (2001) and "The Best Man" (1999)] once again turns in a believable, strong performance, this time as Timothy Walker, an underhanded record producer who takes advantage of the talents of others. Now where did they get that idea?

Also, if you like Carey's singing, and apparently millions of people do, the soundtrack should be a treat. This lady of many octaves recently signed a new contract with Virgin Records which gives her a reported 20-million dollars per album. Songs from the movie are on her latest CD called -- surprise -- "Glitter."

She should keep her day job.

Bottom line: nice beat, hard to dance to.


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