If you know who Beyoncé Knowles and Rue McClanahan are, you’ll be shocked to see them on stage together. Did any of us ever think that would ever happen in any universe? But the real irony of “The Fighting Temptations”—a movie about a gospel choir struggling to find its voice—is that the movie itself has no rhythm.
But the real irony of “The Fighting Temptations”—a movie about a gospel choir struggling to find its voice—is that the movie itself has no rhythm.
Director Jonathan Lynn (“My Cousin Vinny”) had a tough job: Connect solid musical scenes to each other with story, dialogue and a rhythm as easy and attractive as the music audiences are treated to.
But that job proved too tough to handle. “Temptations” will have you tapping your toes during the musical sets, but also scratching your head as to why Cuba Gooding Jr. isn’t half as engaging here as he was in “Jerry Maguire” and “As Good As It Gets.”
Part of the problem is that he plays the straight man, and his lines are as rigid as the music is lively. Gooding’s Darrin could have used more of the fluidity of his local pal, Lucius (Mike Epps), and the town’s DJ (Steve Harvey, who is hilarious).
The movie’s premise finds Darrin as a failing ad executive in New York. Down and out, he gets a shot at financial salvation when his dead aunt leaves him her stock in a telecom company—provided he qualify the aunt’s beloved church choir for a gospel singing competition.
Of course, the competition, a scarce six weeks away, brings out the best in some people and the worst in others, creating a church in conflict.
The movie puts forth some interesting thematic points, like the fact that the choir is formed of a hodge-podge of folks who find a certain grace by coming together under the roof of a church.
It also features quite a few well-known singers: Beyoncé Knowles, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, the Blind Boys of Alabama, T-Bone and more.
But it’s almost as if the movie is split in two: good musical sets, bad almost everything else. The non-singing scenes in Beulah Baptist Church are painfully mis-timed.
They contain story beats that are supposed to be funny, and audiences will be able to see that, but they still won’t be moved to laugh. Why? Because humor should be infused with as much rhythm as music, but here, sadly, it is not.
The movie features some well-intended messages about targeting and exploitation, even as it prominently displays Pepsi cans in some scenes featuring Pepsi pitchwoman Knowles.
The music in “The Fighting Temptations” will warm the spirit, but the rest of it suffers from bumpy editing and direction.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual references
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Writers: Elizabeth Hunter and Saladin K. Patterson
Cast: Darrin: Cuba Gooding Jr.; Lilly: Beyonce Knowles; Lucius: Mike Epps; Paulina Pritchett: LaTanya Richardson; Aunt Sally: Ann Nesby; Rev. Lewis: Wendell Pierce; Miles the DJ: Steve Harvey.