MOVIE: The Fighting Temptations

Once every few years, Hollywood puts out a movie that brings the joy of Gospel music to the forefront. It happened with Sister Act and Sister Act II; it happened with Leap of Faith.

movieIt’s sure to happen again with The Fighting Temptations.

The big screen production (hitting theatres Friday, Sept. 19th, 2003) from Paramount Pictures and MTV Films and directed by Jonathan Lynn, the movie stars not only the well-known Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles in the leading roles, but also —and in contrast to its peer predecessors, — brings in a host of well known Gospel artists to dominate the feature.

The plot centers around the wayward Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is living the life of a lie as an apparent executive success story in New York. Amidst the realities of debt and simply being inept as a junior ad agency employee, he finds himself in the middle of an inheritance from his Aunt Sally (Ann Nesby), contingent on him achieving success for his hometown church choir in Alabama at the upcoming Gospel Explosion.

In comes the beautiful nightclub singer Lilly (Beyoncé Knowles) who has been shunned by some church legalists, but possesses the voice need to bring the hurting choir to stardom. Unfolding to scenes of church humor, romance, fantastic musical gospel numbers, movieseveral cliched (but hilarious) setups involving backtown country life, convicts and sinners in the choir ranks, there’s plenty of uplifting, crowd-pleasing antics.

As we expect, nothing goes as planned for Darrin, or Lilly for that matter, and the result is that decisions need to be made, pitting the usual adversaries of the difficult truth and easy deceit against each other. Yes, truth triumphs, and along the way the movie presents some exceptional lessons and principles, at least compared to routine Hollywood fare.

There are some infrequent mild sexual references, but with themes of redemption and the crucial message (as so succinctly expressed in the film’s new Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' song “He Still Loves Me” but also woven more ambiguously throughout many of the movie’s subplots) that there is no standard to which we must first reach before accepting Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation, this flick is a winner.

More movie highlights:

  • The opening musical segment featuring Shirley Caesar playing herself.
  • The scene stealing, falsetto-talking Montell Jordan, along with veteran Gospel rapper, T-Bone (who thieves some scenes himself).
  • Brief cameos from Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin and Ramiyah
  • Minor roles played by Ricky Dillard, Melba Moore, Angie Stone, some members of James Grear and Company, keyboardist Myra Walker and The Anointed Pace Sisters.
  • Steve Harvey adding humor in his role as small town radio announcer, Miles the DJ.
  • The O’Jays with their memorable choir-members and barbershop scenes.

in theatres: September 19, 2003

— review by Stan North

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