The Fighting Temptations
2 out of 5 stars
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Overproduced and annoyingly glossy, this would have been better with half the budget and a more rigorous director. But it's still toe-tappingly watchable. Darrin (Gooding) has lived in New York since his mother (Evans) was hounded out of their hometown church in quaint Monte Carlo, Georgia, by the legalistic Paulina (Richardson), sister of the nice guy pastor (Pierce). Some 20 years later, a series of coincidences sends Darrin home for a funeral. To get his inheritance, he must help the choir reach a major gospel music competition, which involves trying to outwit Paulina to get a gorgeous "fallen" woman (Knowles), a couple of prison inmates (T-Bone and Jordan), a local good-time boy (Epps) and sundry other unsavoury characters into the choir. Before you can say "Sweet Home Alabama", Darrin's reconnecting to his roots and discovering true love in the Deep South.

No, there's not an original element in the plot, and it doesn't help that Lynn directs it far too broadly. He never strikes a convincing balance between the goofy surface and the more serious undertones, and he completely misses the setting's earthiness and grit. It feels more like an artificial fable than a story we can sink our teeth into. What the film does have going for it is an magical musical score--a number of performance sequences take the breath away with their sheer inventiveness, combining musical styles wonderfully and building the film's dramatic subtext where the script and direction fail to do so. The cast is good on the whole, with lots of quirky supporting actors. Gooding shows flashes of brilliance, but is allowed/encouraged to be far too rubber-faced ... although his acrobatics in the closing credits are astonishing! Knowles steals the film even though she's far too glamorous and sexy for her character (an irrelevant complaint, I know); her steamy version of Fever is a fabulous showstopper! The fact that the film features first-rate examples of every variation of black music makes it well worth the price of a ticket, although the fact that it includes every conceivable small-town stereotype may make you wish you'd bought the soundtrack and skipped the movie.

cert PG themes, language 13.Nov.03

dir Jonathan Lynn
scr Elizabeth Hunter, Saladin K Patterson
with Cuba Gooding Jr, Beyonce Knowles, Mike Epps, LaTanya Richardson, Wendell Pierce, Steve Harvey, Rue McClanahan, Melba Moore, Dave Sheridan, Mitchah Williams, T-Bone, Montell Jordan, Eddie Levert, Ann Nesby, Faith Evans, Shirley Caesar
release US 19.Sep.03; UK 12.Dec.03
Paramount
03/US 2h03

Swing low, sweet chariot: the Fighting Temptations in concert ... at the local prison

gooding knowles
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send your review to Shadows... The Fighting Temptations joelund, net: 4/5 "it was great! i really liked the final scene." (19.Jun.04)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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