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Rated 3.01 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Hallelujah
by Betty Jo Tucker

Brothers and sisters, please join me in giving thanks for The Fighting Temptations, the first movie this year to deliver sheer musical pleasure. Glorious gospel singing and joyful dancing fill the screen without the interruption of cut-away shots -- and, praise the Lord, we're allowed to see entire numbers from beginning to end!  Let those "Amens" be heard on high.

Clap your hands for Destiny Child's Beyoncé Knowles (Austin Powers in Goldmember), who sings with all her heart and soul -- even while performing a definitely "non-gospel" hit like Peggy Lee's sexy "Fever." And for the other heavenly voices assembled here to make up the film's exuberant gospel choirs -- people like Melba Moore, Shirley Caesar, Eddie Levert, Faith Evans, Angie Stone, and T-Bone (who performs an incredible gospel rap while in handcuffs!).

Give a shout out for Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire) in another frenetically funny turn. He's better than ever as a dishonest New York advertising executive who falls for Knowles after inheriting his Aunt Sally's gospel choir down in Georgia -- plus the chance to win big prize money at the annual Gospel Explosion competition, if he can put together a decent choir. 

Sing hallelujah for the terrific barbershop quartette version of "Loves Me like a Rock" and for the film's hilarious choir audition scenes, especially a kooky duet by Justin Caudill and Steven Huie and D'Wayne Gardner's self-absorbed rendition of "Isn't She Lovely?" 

Offer praise for the comic timing of Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) and Mike Epps (Bait) in their roles as a tippling radio announcer and a small-town "player," respectively. And for LaTanya Richardson's (100 Centre Street) amusing portrayal of a mean-spirited church member.   

Forgive those who complain about the movie's predictable plot and thin narrative substance, for they know not what they do. They've forgotten how simple most stories are in movie musicals, even Oscar-winning ones like Gigi. Love beckons, then seems lost -- but is found again and makes someone a better person. Anything more complicated might detract from great song and dance numbers.              

Above all, brothers and sisters, don't fight the temptation to see this rousing musical flick. Directed by Jonathan Lynn (The Whole Nine Yards) from a story by Elizabeth Hunter (ER), it's a treat for the ears, eyes and soul.   

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG-13" for some sexual references.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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