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The Preacher's Wife
Starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Courtney B. Vance
Directed by Penny Marshall

The Preacher's Wife is based on The Bishop's Wife, a movie that makes my neighbor swoon. As always I make no comparison to source material but, in this case, it isn't necessary. The Preacher's Wife is a charming and very funny piece of holiday entertainment.

Anyone who didn't expect Whitney Houston to sing up a storm as star of this flick has obviously failed to do any holiday shopping in a CD store. The question is: what do you get from The Preacher's Wife that you won't get from a CD?

Well, I've answered that. Lots of laughs. I'll get back to that in a flash.

Briefly: St. Matthew's church stands in a poor neighborhood. The collection plate doesn't cover the bills. The boiler's on the fritz. A real estate tycoon (Lionel Richie), having fled the neighborhood, seeks to tear down the church to build tennis courts and a shopping mall. "Gentrification," it's called.

Pastor Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance) doesn't know how to save the day. He's so wrapped up in his work that he isn't aware that his marriage to his lovely wife, Julia (Whitney Houston), is fraying at the edges. Henry inherited the pulpit from his father-in-law, and it is strongly implied that he ain't the preacher Julia's dad was. And Whitney leads the gospel choir at services.

With no where else to turn, Henry turns to his faith and prays for help. And Whitney sings her sad but cute-as-a-button boy to sleep. Said boy has a friend across the street who is being put into foster care in a different town, which is why he is sad. That subplot is one of several attempts to inject reality into a fantasy, and it is one of the few that works. And Whitney sings another song.

This being the movies, the Pastor's prayers are answered by a grey-suited angel named Dudley (Denzel Washington).

Before Whitney can sing again, Denzel lets loose with the joy of being "alive" again, novice angel helper that he is, and displays a heretofore unseen ability to do comic acting. Handsome devil with unspecified background that he is, he and Whitney find an attraction. When Henry is too busy to take Julia out dancing, he insists that Denzel take her. Uh oh.

And Whitney sings another song. Actually, Whitney sings a lot, which is a good thing because she really has not yet developed much more than screen presence. She doesn't have to deliver a broad range of emotional color which is a good thing, because regardless of how accomplished any of the leads may be, none can go head-to-head against five-year-old Justin Pierre Edmund, who plays Jeremiah, the cute-as-a-button boy mentioned above. Jeremiah narrates the story, and has the advantage of being able to dub his lines, and additional jokes, in.

There are lots of colorful characters in The Preacher's Wife, and lots of secondary stories which attempt to fill in realistic touches to this otherwise complete fantasy. It isn't necessary, but the audience I sat with had no problems.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Preacher's Wife, he would have paid . . .


To my back, it was two, maybe three songs too long. But that's why I'm Cranky.

Click to buy films by Penny Marshall
Click to buy films starring Denzel Washington
Click to buy films starring Whitney Houston

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