A music-rich comedy-drama aimed squarely at urban, African-American churchgoers tells the same basic story as THE GOSPEL (2005) — young men take divergent paths but eventually reconnect through the abiding faith of their childhood. But this one has a feel-good spin. South Carolina, 1988: Respected Reverend Tucker succumbs to temptations of the flesh and is murdered by a jealous husband; his devastated wife subsequently commits suicide, orphaning their twin sons, Wesley and Teshawn (Derek Jamaar Taylor, Jeremy Maleek Leggett). The boys are adopted by their loving Aunt June (Novella Nelson), who gives each boy one-half of a two-part ring forged by Zulu chiefs as a sign of their combined strength, then brings them to live with her in her gracious Harlem town house. A devout churchgoer, June introduces her nephews to the Harlem Baptist Church and enrolls both in the choir. Devout Wesley sings only to praise the Lord, while Teshawn is more interested in "prideful" showboating. Flash-forward to the present. Wesley (Darien Sills-Evans) now leads the church where he grew up and is engaged to the beautiful Rachel (Rosa Arredondo), but is troubled by a declining congregation and the sorry state of the choir. Teshawn (Billoah Greene) has reinvented himself as successful hip-hop star Zulu, whose hits include the likes of "Big Bag o' Weed" and who's in deep trouble with label owner Bull Sharky (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, of TV's Lost), who brooks no dissention — let alone defection — by his artists. Teshawn flees Los Angeles for the refuge of Aunt June's home, but he and Wesley quickly butt heads. The tension between the brothers only gets worse when Teshawn agrees to whip the choir — whose ranks include purring Sister Nettie (Eartha Kitt) and longtime choir mistress Sister Jasmine (Patti LaBelle) — into shape at the same time that his notoriety begins luring street-smart straying lambs back into the fold. All complications lead to the choir challenge, where everything gets worked out to the accompaniment of a succession of spiritual toe-tappers. Coscreenwriter Kevin Heffernan (a veteran of Broken Lizard) and actor-turned-director Charles Randolph-Wright pepper the film with gentle digs at black Republicans, busybody church ladies, white yuppies moving to Harlem and Bull's thuggish "executive vice presidents of development" without losing sight of the film's faith-based message of redemption and spiritual healing. The production gets a world-class boost from Nona Hendryx's original music and cameos by seasoned performers ranging from Ben Vereen to Tony-winner Roger Robinson.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A music-rich comedy-drama aimed squarely at urban, African-American churchgoers tells the same basic story as THE GOSPEL (2005) — young men take divergent paths but eventually reconnect through the abiding faith of their childhood. But this one has a feel-… (more)