In director Jonathan Lynn’s 2003 comedy, Cuba Gooding Jr scores a great big hit playing Darrin Hill, a New York advertising executive who goes home to town of Monte Carlo, Georgia, to claim his aunt’s inheritance and fulfill her last wish: to create a church choir and win a gospel contest.
Cuba meets a band of losers, but then finds the lovely Lilly (Beyoncé Knowles), a beautiful lounge singer and single mom with the voice of an angel. Darrin and Lilly work together to bring the church community together, while developing a romantic relationship.
The stars are pitch perfect in this soaring, spirited musical comedy drama that makes sweet music (especially Beyoncé’s thrilling version of Peggy Lee’s evergreen standard song Fever) and leaves you on a high note.
Elizabeth Hunter and Saladin K Patterson’s screenplay is based on Hunter’s story. Rue McClanahan from The Golden Girls plays Nancy Stringer.
The soundtrack was well received and more successful than the film, which barely made its budget during its cinema release and got mixed reviews, though all the principal actors signed on for a sequel which hasn’t materialised.
Gooding Jr is still best known for his portrayal of Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire (1996), for which he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
For Beyoncé, it was a follow-up to her turn as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).
Also in the cast are Ann Nesby, Faith Evans, Melba Moore, Rosalie Washington, Ricky Dillard, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Larry John Myers, Wendell Pierce, Lou Myers, Lourdes Benedicto, Richie Dye, Dakin Matthews, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Daphne Duplaix, Joanie Fox, Mike Epps, Steve Harvey, Mitchah Williams, Angie Stone, Eddie Levert Sr and Shirley Caesar.
It is photographed by Affonso Beato, produced by Loretha C Jones, Benny Medina and Jeff Pollack, and scored by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Big Jim Wright, with production designs by Victoria Paul.
©Derek Winnert 2014 Classic Film Review 1165
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