Movie Reviews: The Fighting Temptations




All Rights Reserved

     Paramount (2hr. 3min.)
     A musical comedy about as a slick-talking New York advertising executive who moves back to his hometown to lead his late aunt's church's gospel choir to success.
     Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyonce Knowles, Mike Epps, Faith Evans, Steve Harvey
Bottom Line:


Leah Bluntschli

Start on the downbeat: Once you go gospel, you can’t leave! There is nothing that will send chills down your spine and set your feet tapping like the earth-shaking vocals of a gospel choir. It’s the music that impels you to stand, clap, shout, throw up your hands, get down and thoroughly enjoy the moment and pure emotion. Quite a few popular singers have beginnings in gospel, which is probably one of the reasons MTV produced this movie. What impressed me was that they successfully captured soul, albeit in a little too optimistic, let’s-get-together manner.

The core of "The Fighting Temptations" entails junior advertising executive Darren Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who has lost his soul, then finds it again when he comes back to his roots in a small southern town. Darren is well on his way up the corporate ladder, getting ahead by any means necessary, including faking his credentials. Darren’s dishonesty finally catches up with him, and he gets fired the same day he finds out about his Great-Aunt Sally’s death back in his hometown. Cuba Gooding, Jr. shows his skills as an actor by managing to portray a lying businessman as a likeable guy, who is cocky and suave on the surface, and yet has depth of soul and a big heart beneath. (Could Cuba be on his to way to saving his career?)

Aunt Sally’s dying wish was for her favorite nephew Darren to direct the Beulah Baptist Church choir in order to earn his inheritance of Georgia telecom stock worth $150,000. Another stipulation is Darren must take the choir to the Gospel Explosion contest, which at this point in the movie is only six weeks away. Darren agrees to tackle the job, finding that the choir consists of only six cacophonous members. After a series of American Idol-esque auditions, Darren manages to scrounge up a motley crew of singers, including a barbershop quartet, some local teens and a few inmates.

Beyonce Knowles plays Lily, an R&B singer who stars at a bar in town, wooing her largely male audience with her silky voice. Doggedly pursued by Darren, she eventually agrees to lead the choir, despite the objections of a few old, judgmental church ladies. Though Lily is chosen to be the lead singer, she does not dominate each song, which offers other singers a chance to shine at the front. To Beyonce’s credit, she gives a believable performance as a tough, savvy woman and a good, protective mother. And, of course, she delivers beautiful vocals as expected.

The plot is a little predictable, because it’s obvious that the choir will come together, and, with Beyonce’s vocals, will surely win the contest, but it’s still interesting to see how it will happen. Certain obstacles stand in the way, such as the pastor’s sister Paulina, a jealous and bitter woman who tries to thwart the choir’s and Darren’s plans, and complications caused by money trouble, greed, selfishness, and dishonesty. Despite it all Darren and the choir prevail, and even increase church attendance.

Even though the plot is cliché, the characters unfold like magnolia blossoms, each well crafted and significant. The cast is so jam packed with people who put forth such wonderful effort that it is hard to list them all. Mike Epps stars as Lucius, a booty connoisseur with some great one-liners. Steve Harvey, who plays the part of the radio deejay in Monticarlo, was so hilarious I wished he had been given more screen time. Faith Hill gives a subtle and gentle mood to her character as Darren’s mother, Mary Ann. Wendell Pierce acts as the Beulah Baptist Church’s pastor, cowed and stifled by his sister, played by LaTanya Richardson, who lends herself fully to the role of the antagonist. The members of the choir, which includes Eddie LeVert, Melba Moore, Angie Stone, Montel Jordan, T-Bone, and Mickey Jones, all provide their own distinct personalities and flavor to the movie.

My only complaint is that the audio tracks sounded too clean and pre-recorded, but with music that moving, it’s hard to stay mad. Forgiveness and acceptance was the prevalent message of this movie, after all.



Videos and DVDs
All Products

Search by Keywords