The Fighting Temptations Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/19/2003
There are some movies that aren’t necessarily the best movies out there, but they make you want to get out of your seat and cheer along with the things going on in the movie. I believe The Fighting Temptations is one of those movies.
Young Darrin Hill (Nigel Washington) loves his mama, who isn’t loved by the community. The church thinks Maryann Hill (Faith Evans) shouldn’t be singing the “devil’s music,” and force her to choose between secular music for the night clubs or church music for the church choir. She chooses the secular music, and is kicked out of the choir. They stay with Darrin’s Aunt Sally Walker (Ann Nesby), who is the only person in town that doesn’t judge Maryann. Years later, an adult Darrin (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a talented but devious New York advertising executive at a top firm. He loses his job when they discover that he lied on his resume about his background. His bills are piling up, and he desperately needs money. Darrin then learns that he is the only surviving relative of his Aunt Sally who has just left him $150,000. He goes back to his hometown of Montecarlo, Georgia, to attend the funeral and collect his inheritance. Darrin discovers when the will is read that the inheritance comes with a catch. He must form a choir, enter it in the annual Gospel Explosion, and win it in order to collect the inheritance. Even though he knows little about music, he does it anyway, because he needs the money. The contest itself comes with a $10,000 prize, which would go to Reverend Lewis (Wendell Pierce) to fix up the Beulah Baptist Church. The first person he asks to be in the choir is Lucius (Mike Epps), the guy who drives Darrin around town most of the time in his beat-up Cadillac. He advertises choir auditions on Miles Smoke’s (Steve Harvey) radio show. Soon he has most of his choir. This includes Tasha (Mae Middleton), Bessie Cooley (Melba Moore), Derek (Zane Copeland, Jr.), Nancy Stringer (Rue McClanahan), Alma (Angie Stone), Homer T. (Lou Myers), Bill (Dave Sheridan), and Jimmy B. (Mitchah Williams.) He also asks Scooter (Mickey Jones) to play the piano and the town barbers Joseph (Eddie Levert, Sr.), Frank (Walter Williams, Sr.), and Samuel (Eric Nolan Grant) to join after seeing them sing “Loves Me like a Rock” to young Dean (Darrell Vanterpool.) He even has three convicts join; the high-voiced Johnson (Montell Jordan), the white rapper Bee-Z Briggs (T-Bone), and the mostly quiet Lightfoot (Chris Cole.) This all doesn’t sit right with Paulina Pritchett (LaTanya Richardson), the Reverend’s sister and the woman who had organized the kicking out of Maryann. She feels like she should have been the one to lead the choir, so she makes it as hard as possible for Darrin to do his job. Darrin thinks he has really clinched it when he convinces Lilly (Beyoncé Knowles), a single mother he meets in town, to be the lead singer in the choir. He had seen her sing in a jazz club and realized her talent. She only agrees to do it because she thinks he is a successful record producer. Her addition really doesn’t sit well with Paulina, because she thinks Lilly is a sinner. Darrin starts to fall in love with Lilly as the choir practices for the competition. At one point Darrin is offered his job back, and he must make a decision whether he wants to go back to his old New York job or stay and lead the choir to victory.
Let’s make no bones about it: this movie is all about the music. There is more music in this movie than in a whole day of programming from the channel that produced it…MTV. It’s not really a musical though, at least no more of a musical than The Blues Brothers or Sister Act (the latter of which most people are comparing it to.) Half of the cast is made up of musicians, and there are cameos from Reverend Shirley Caesar, Yolanda Adams, Bilal, Mary Mary, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Heck, even the barbers are the O’Jays!
The comedy was the right pacing. It didn’t go overboard, but stayed just silly enough not to offend church-going folk. Cuba was just one part of a great ensemble cast, though he was the perfect choice to play the hyperactive Darrin. The downside is that he and Knowles had no romantic chemistry. She could sing though!
Whether or not you are religious (I’m not, by the way), you will enjoy The Fighting Temptations. It is so high-energy with the music that you will be clapping along as they perform (at least the crowd at the screening I went to did.) Be sure to stick through the credits to see Cuba do some break dancing.
Get the soundtrack featuring the songs sung in the movie by Beyoncé Knowles, Faith Evans, The O’Jays, and more:
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