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April 2006

Preaching to the Choir Review

By Kam Williams

Preaching to the Choir Review

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Distributor: Code Black Entertainment
Director: Charles Randolp-Wright
Producers: Peter E. Lengyel & Richard Perello
Associate Producers: Roger M. Bobb & Robin Reid
Screenwriter: Kevin Heffernan & Peter E. Lengyel, based on a story by Monica Lengyel Karlson
Original Music by: Nona Hendryx
PG-13 for sex, expletives and drug references.
Running time: 102 minutes
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tichina Arnold, Marc Damon-Johnson, Janine Green, Biloah Greene, Darien Sills-Evans, Marva Hicks, Eartha Kitt, Patti LaBelle, Adriane Lenox, Novella Nelson, Tim Reid
   

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Parable of the Prodigal Son Updated as a Hip-Hopera

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even in Hollywood where studios are quick to make a cheap knock-off of any moneymaking movie. This is the case with Preaching to the Choir, which reads a lot like The Gospel, last year's tale of redemption about a womanizing hip-hop star who returns to his roots and goes back to the church where he finds a girl to settle down with while whipping the choir into shape.

Except for being set in Harlem instead of Atlanta, Preaching to the Choir features the same Prodigal Son plotline. Yet, this hastily-mounted, sloppily-edited production is so poorly executed that it fails to measure up to the original in terms of quality.

The film revolves around the sibling rivalry between Wesley (Darien sills-Evans) and Teshawn (Billoah Greene), twin brothers who have taken distinctly divergent paths in life. Wesley has grown up to be a Baptist preacher, while Teshawn, aka Zulunatic, is riding a tidal wave of fame as a Grammy-winning gangsta' rapper.

There is not much reason to critique this picture in depth, except to say that its dialogue is unnecessarily crude and lewd. Worse, it is unconvincing in terms of character development, and even its uninspiring musical sequences fall completely flat. In addition, the movie squanders the services of an impressive supporting cast which includes Patti LaBelle, Tim Reid, and Eartha Kitt. Ms. Kitt plays a sex-starved choir member who propositions Zulunatic by whispering in his ear, "I haven't had sex since 1972." "See me after practice," he responds lustfully. "Thank you," she purrs back. Besides that ill-advised exchange, inappropriate subject matter abounds here, from Zulu's frequently flirting with his brother's fiancée (Rosa Arredondo) to a character name "Sh*tface" to lots of semi-illiterate gangstas roaming the ghetto without a functional conscience.

A blasphemous blaxploit.

Fair (1 star)