Directed by Jonathan Lynn, starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Beyoncé Knowles, Mike Epps, Latanya Richardson, Steve Harvey, T-Bone, Wendell Pierce and Rue McClanahan.
What has happened to Cuba Gooding Jr? While he was never much use as an actor, at one time he at least had the sense to opt for decent scripts. The early to mid 90s was his oyster, with good roles in 'Boyz N' The Hood', 'A Few Good Men' and 'Outbreak' culminating in an Oscar-winning turn in Cameron Crowe's 'Jerry Maguire' in 1996. But all that is now a hazy memory, and since then Junior has appeared in plenty of duds ('Men Of Honour', 'Pearl Harbour') and quite a few embarrassments ('Rat Race', 'Boat Trip'). Prepare yourself for another of the former.
Gooding Jr plays Darrin Hill, a New York schemer with mounting debts and incipient unemployment. A self-appointed charmer with no charm, Darrin is a loser who hasn't yet lost, with his dreams still intact. With his lies gradually catching up with him, Darrin receives word that his only living relative in Deep South Georgia has checked out. The good news is she's left him her estate. The bad news, both for him and for us, is that he must assemble an award-winning choir to claim it.
In a desperately poor screenplay chronically cursed with clichés, Darrin gathers together a bunch of misfits and sets about the task of winning the annual Gospel Explosion. He has drunks, bible bashers, glory hunters, and even convicts. But he knows he must get local single mother Lilly (Knowles) - who is, of course, also a fantastic singer - on the team if his plan of action is to stand any chance. Five-year-olds could predict what ensues.
A lot of actors have some very annoying mannerisms. Mel Gibson does the Adam's Apple yo-yo, Richard Gere does the rapid blinking, Gooding Jr does the pursed lips pout. He seems to think this can convey anger, irritation, humour and desire. It doesn't. What it does do though is expose his lack of acting ability. Casting agents have obviously realised that too.
But it's hard to see something this weak benefiting much even with a good lead. Every stereotype is shamelessly peddled, and every resolution is as cosy as it is incredible. And why, oh why, does a script as toothless as this have to be 120 minutes long? Sometimes it feels like twice that.
Some fine gospel singing, and Beyoncé shines, but really this is hopelessly sub-standard feel-good fare.