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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.91%
Worth A Look: 8.51%
Average: 2.13%
Pretty Bad: 14.89%
Total Crap42.55%

3 reviews, 29 user ratings

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Fighting Temptations, The
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by Erik Childress

"The Church Owes John Landis Some Royalties"
2 stars

Imagine someone watching The Blues Brothers and saying “you know, there’s a good movie in there SOMEwhere.” The arrogance, the balls, the shameless unoriginality. Even worse, they write a screenplay, leave out the car crashes, take a plot strand and contrive it to the point of 15-year old, sewn up underwear and then not even realize the hypocrisy that’s spilling forth from the page. Oh yeah, and then you cast Cuba Gooding Jr. in the midst of the greatest career downswing since Pia Zadora. The fact that The Fighting Temptations is going to be a big hit with an audience percentage only frustrates me further.

In a lead performance that’s the cinematic equivalent of his Oscar speech, Gooding plays Darrin Hill, a junior advertising executive whose talent for scamming the credit card companies makes him a perfect fit in the world of Liars, Inc. Proving once and for all that movie dad Laurence Fishburne didn’t make a dent with that “alcohol-for-blacks” speech in Boyz 'N' the Hood, Gooding’s Darrin gains favor (and scorn) in his company by proposing an idea to make “fortys” even more appealing to black folk while increasing the market to the whites.

When he’s fired by his boss for faking his resume, Darrin has a chance to go back to where envy, judgement and hypocrisy first entered his life: The Church. In his younger years, his mom was all but excommunicated from the local parish for using her talented voice to sing that devil music in the local clubs while a member of the choir. Now his Aunt Sally, one of the few who stood up for them, has passed and Darrin is headed for the funeral.

It takes a minute for every ounce of malt liquor to finally get to the film’s will (aka: the plot) where Aunt Sally will leave an inheritance to Darren if he can reform the Church choir and win the National Gospel Championship. In his efforts to get the band together, he comes across nightclub singer Lilly (Beyonce), who whaddya know is the little girl he once fancied (as a young boy) and is disliked just the same by the shrewd stickler, Paulina (LaTanya Richardson), who kicked out Darrin’s mom so many years ago. Paulina is such a hateful, scheming wench that she’s even got her brother (Wendell Pierce), the Church Reverend under her ass (since a thumb just isn’t big enough to describe her control.) Poor Rev. Lewis is astonishing proof how a lack of pussy can turn you into one so quickly.

The scenes of how inferior the choir actually is at first are mercifully kept to a minimum, but flashforward three weeks later and suddenly they’re in top form thanks to a leader with no musical insight and pretending to be a record producer. Each ensuing moment involves some new Kelly Leak being added to the choir to make it better (until they finally forego introductions and just add people), including a drunken hillbilly and a trio of prisoners picked up after doing a favor for the nearby lock-up in a scene where we half expect to hear “Jailhouse Rock”. Unfortunately, it’s not a cast roundup and not the end of the movie. (You have to wait another 50 minutes for that to be taken.) Since the movie is more grounded than your average musical, which needs a song at least every 10-15 min to qualify, all I could think of during this scene is how you stand Beyonce in a room full of prisoners and then expect them to care about the music? I’d hate to be someone’s cellmate THAT evening.

If the film is about the music and that’s all you care about, then yes, the music in it is quite fantastic. Every gospel performance is trying to outdo Reverend Cleophus James and every singer gets to belt out a solid solo moment within the songs. But hell, I could watch Blues Brothers 2000 for good music, but would you rather WATCH that or buy the soundtrack? That element is supposed to be the hot fudge topping; the bonus to a solid and funny story. Except it’s not solid and it’s not funny. The script caters to an audience who believe that the insults on the Jerry Springer Show are the pinnacle of all things humorous. A couple amusing moments notwithstanding, but if Steve Harvey popping in as a DJ to cigarette-act more than Johnny Depp as Hunter Thompson is your stroke of grace, it’s tantamount to creating a Greek chorus for people who think its definition means the involvement of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Lest you think I’m being hypocritical, especially after you read my School of Rock review in a couple weeks (which in many ways covers the exact same territory & is being released by the same studio), don’t go calling the kettle Jack Black just yet. Here’s a film that comes down hard on the world of advertising (and rightly so.) It’s all about lies and deception and making money at the expense of others. Now, add in a Church choir whose sole existence is to WIN MONEY in a public competition (where tickets were likely sold) singing “God’s music” so the Church can afford a fix-up job that even CGI wizards couldn’t accomplish. Good cause, you say? How about feeding the hungry, community programs or schools? Yeah, the Church needs a new roof (no Church I’ve ever known hasn’t campaigned for that) but don’t go thumbing your nose at Darrin when you discovered HE misrepresented. And just so we don’t get all racial up in this piece, is it necessary to name the only two white people in the choir, Corny Dog and Scooter? It’s not exactly Honky, but c’mon! What would happen if the roles were reversed and the film was about a Gap store competing in the national mall ding dong sing-a-long, and the two token black employees were named Watermelon and Barbeque?

Jonathan Lynn has been one of the great unsung comic directors of the past two decades. His My Cousin Vinny is widely recognized as a modern comedy classic and his resume also boasts such light comic gems as Clue, The Distinguished Gentleman, Greedy, Sgt. Bilko, The Whole Nine Yards and a great, underrated little film called Trial & Error from 1997. There are some solid scripts in that bunch and maybe Lynn just got saddled with a horrendous one from two television writers whose upcoming projects include something called “White Boy Shuffle” and a film version of “The Honeymooners” with (gasp) Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps. The few funny moments in-between the music do have Lynn’s stamp on them and the rest you could swear were directed by John Landis in his post-90s days. At 120 minutes, the film just barely squeezes in the musical moments making the uninspired and unfunny expositional scenes all the more tortuous. A smarter script would have recognized the inherent humor in Church politics, advertising or even something nobel like the concept of forgiveness. By the end we may be reminded that Jesus saves, but the Church certainly withdraws.

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originally posted: 09/19/03 15:12:28
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User Comments

8/16/06 Eric Rountree Funny, and great music! 4 stars
11/01/05 damilola the film is chasis 5 stars
8/04/05 love stupid story, dialogs and Beyonce just can't act!!! 2 stars
7/21/05 Christa Thomas this film was great 5 stars
7/02/05 David Romero That is a supernice movie 5 stars
2/25/05 Dan I am White, it doesn't matter what race you are Roberta. I liked the movie too. 5 stars
12/03/04 Roberta wearwood I luv the fighting temptations maybe because i am black it is one of my favourite films. 5 stars
8/03/04 psychotic black dwarf Most clever part is the title. Erik C: do BBQ & Watermelon get to play w/ Barbie & Apple? 3 stars
5/23/04 bianca very good 5 stars
5/15/04 jennifer great,off-da-chain,keep up the good work 5 stars
5/07/04 wylene This was a very entertaining movie. The storyline was accurate about southern hospitality 4 stars
4/22/04 Herenessa Figthing Temptation was so the bom, i really loved it and gave it a 100/100 5 stars
4/07/04 Jenise Norvell excellent movie, enjoyed the music 5 stars
3/25/04 shirlene anderson this is my favorite movie. 5 stars
2/05/04 Shoshoni Brooks The movie was greater than great. I just loved it. 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Bottom-of-the-barrel "comedy"; Gooding looks constipated. 1 stars
10/28/03 Mari this movie seriously sucked not a cuba or beyonce fan at all 1 stars
10/24/03 mialaya beyonce needs to sit her "bonnie and clyde " self down cuz she is not a good actress at all 1 stars
10/17/03 anthony freeman i loved the movie it was so funny and the music was great 5 stars
10/08/03 Baby`j i thought the movie was good its better then most movie out now..and zane looked soo good.. 5 stars
10/05/03 reginamersier excellent actor cuba played his roll very well 4 stars
9/30/03 suicide is painless the only fighting temptation left was the razor blade to the jugular 1 stars
9/27/03 Terrance Rogers I just wanted 2 see it because Beyonce' and Mike epps but it was alright nonthin 2 die 4 4 stars
9/26/03 Deborah Reynolds Beyonce is worse than terrible...Cuba seemed embarrassed. Waste of time! Got my $$$ back! 1 stars
9/24/03 mertistine bass-simmons GREAT, FUNNY andwell worth the time and money spent . 5 stars
9/23/03 Angry Black Man Beyonce as a lounge singer! The horror, the horror!! 1 stars
9/22/03 The F-Bomb so gay, not even beyonce's ass could save it 1 stars
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  19-Sep-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Feb-2004



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