Once Upon a Time in Mexico


Matchstick Men

Fighting Temptations


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Cuba's really gotta cut back
on that Red Bull one of these

The Fighting Temptations
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an advertising executive gone wrong (he apparently invented malt liquor as a way to sell more booze to African Americans), is leaving New York City to head back to his quaint boyhood home situated in Georgia.  There's an inheritance waiting there for him.  The only thing blocking Darrin from taking the money and heading back to NYC is his deceased Aunt Sally.  No, there's no necrophilia love going on in the film.  Before taking the loot, Darrin must fulfill his aunt's bitch of a last wish, which is to create a successful gospel choir. 

Darrin's so desperate for his aunt's money that he's willing to play choir director.  He needs the money because he's knee-deep in debt and has no job left for him in New York.  Due to his lying about graduating from Yale (much like George W. Bush, but Darrin doesn't get to be President of the United States of America), he was fired from the ad agency he made millions for.  The only thing working for Darrin is that his boyhood crush, Lilly happens to be an incredible singer.  The trouble is that she isn't so sure she wants to sing for Darrin's choir.  But Darrin needs his aunt's money, and there's no way he's going to be able to create a champion choir without lovely Lilly's heavenly vocal chords.

You can figure out the rest.  And that's the problem.  There are no surprises here.  This is "plot-by-numbers" filmmaking at its most obvious.  Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" music video came equipped with more twists and turns.  The Fighting Temptations does have a few decent laughs intertwined throughout its vast majority of tedious uniformity.  Darrin asks Lilly to marry him during the film, but she turns him down because her heart's set on marrying Michael Jackson.  Never mind that Lilly was only 4 years old at the time and Michael was still black. 

I enjoyed the back-story more than I enjoyed the bulk of the movie.  Watching the way that little Darrin goes from a church going boy to a lying; self-centered man selling malt-liquor was somewhat amusing.  Due to a nasty, gossipy crank of a woman insisting that Darrin's mother stop tape recording "off-color" songs, and then the crank convincing her brother, who's the Reverend of the church, to force Darrin's mother to quit the church's choir when she refuses to stop recording the "dirty" tapes, shows the shining hypocrisy frequently displayed by organized religion.  Darrin's mother leaves the choir and the church and begins moving Darrin from town to town.  Little Darrin starts experimenting with the seedier and greedier side of life and turns into a card shark before he's even a decade old. 

It's the current stuff that bored me silly.  Watching grown-up Darrin singing his way down the path of redemption like a 21st Century Uncle Remus wasn't nearly as interesting as watching his initial fall into sin.  This could be because Elizabeth Hunter and Saladin K. Patterson couldn't write a screenplay with flair if the two of them merged into one super-being and turned into a burning phoenix capable of writing every word of the script with magical droppings of inky flames given to them by the gods.  At least the dynamic-crap-duo couldn't get their grubby hands on one thing in the film:  the vocals.

If you like Gospel music, this film may be able to put a smile on your face.  The singing is incredible.  Beyoncé Knowles was born to play this role, and watching her is a real treat.  It's too bad that the movie she shines in has been done so many times before (both Sister Act films come to mind, along with Sweet Home Alabama) and is only good for the music, and not the actual movie.  Unless you really want to see and hear Beyoncé at her best, I'd recommend skipping over The Fighting Temptations for an evening with a live choir.  No matter how many speakers they add, surround sound will never sound as good as the real thing, and the Gospel has a much better plot.

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Coming soon -- Reviews of The Rundown, Under the Tuscan Sun and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre!

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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].