Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Fighting Temptations (2003) Film Review
The Fighting Temptations
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
Without the music, there is nothing here but same-old. How many movies have you seen about a team of useless sportsmen that is groomed into shape by the charismatic charm of the lead actor? Don't answer. The list is longer than Pinocchio's nozzle.
This time it's singers, not ball players. Darrin (Cuba Gooding Jr.) comes back to his home town in Georgia after a spell in New York as an advertising exec to pick up $150,000 from his Aunt Sally's will - no, not that Aunt Sally!
There is a hitch. In order to claim the money, he has to coach the local Baptist church choir to win the annual Gospel Explosion - a kind of Grand Ole Oprey for Southern gospel choirs.
Of course, the first rehearsal is a disaster. No-one can stay in tune, morale needs an injection of positive vibes and the average age appears closer to Methuselah than Missy Elliott. The minister (Wendell Pierce) is a nice enough fellow, who only wants to do the right thing, but whose sister Paulina (LaTanya Richardson) considers herself the moral arbiter of the entire community and has the personality of a harridan.
Just like Cabaret, in which Judy Garland's talented daughter Liza happens to be the resident songstress in a dingy Berlin dive, the beautiful Beyonce, from smash hit girl group Destiny's Child, performs two nights a week at the drinking hole round the back of Main Street. Naturally, she's a sensation, but Paulina won't have her in the choir, because of Dean, her illegitimate son.
"Dean is a gift from God," says the singer.
"So is snow and rain," Paulina retorts. "We still have to wear our rubbers."
Don't get excited. That is the only half decent joke in the movie.
By the end, Darrin has pulled in a star-studded cast of R & B and rap artistes, including The O'Jays (hairdressers), Montell Jordan and T-Bone (convicts), Faith Evans, Angie Stone and Melba Moore. Gooding and Beyonce become an item. The choir goes to the Gospel Explosion, where they come up against classic acts, such as The Blind Boys Of Alabama. Guess who wins? No prizes.
The director Jonathan Lynn was co-author of Yes, Minister. He seems to have lost his sense of humour after spending too long in California, although cannot be blamed for following the dots through a simplistic, predictable screenplay.
Gooding continues to believe he's a comic actor. Someone should tell him that a wraparound smile, flick-a-switch energy and the facility to pull faces doesn't guarantee him a walk-on part in The Laughathon. Beyonce has the voice, the jeans, the lip gloss of a successful pop star. She acts like she means it, but what she means, in the context of The Fighting Temptations, wouldn't change a light bulb.Reviewed on: 11 Dec 2003