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It's `Preaching,' with very little conviction

April 14, 2006|Chris Kaltenbach | Baltimore Sun

Good intentions abound in "Preaching to the Choir," a drama in which estranged brothers -- one a rising hip-hop star, the other a minister at a declining Harlem church -- discover their shared history and values are stronger than anything the world can throw at them.

Every once in a while, notably during the musical numbers, "Preaching to the Choir" displays the sort of energy a movie like this needs -- a vitality that suggests good acts really can triumph over evil influences, that values really can trump any amount of "bling." An impromptu sidewalk chorus, as members of a choir stream out of church, is as joyous as any street performance put on screen.

Unfortunately, "Preaching" rarely shows that sort of passion.

The orphaned Tucker boys, Wesley and Teshawn, are taken from rural North Carolina to live in a place their Aunt June (Novella Nelson) calls "paradise," Harlem. Despite her love, they grow up differently. Wesley (Darien Sills-Evans) wants to continue his father's legacy as a preacher; Teshawn (Billoah Greene) moves to Hollywood and becomes a famous rapper.

As young adults, the brothers are having problems. Wesley leads a dying congregation, and Teshawn has run afoul of L.A.'s mean streets. Teshawn sets out for Harlem, where he is welcomed by everyone but Wesley.

Sills-Evans and Greene seem content with depicting stock characters. Much more entertaining are Tichina Arnold (of TV's "Everybody Hates Chris") as a sultry church worker, Janine Greene as a member who catches Teshawn's eye and especially Eartha Kitt as a saucy choir member.

Thanks to a score by Nona Hendryx and performances by Patti LaBelle, Nelson and others, the movie soars when the music plays, and the final 20 minutes, set at a gospel music competition, are well worth waiting for.


`Preaching to the Choir'

MPAA rating: Unrated

A Codeblack release. Director Charles Randolph-Wright. Screenplay Kevin Heffernan, Peter E. Lengyel, story by Monica Lengyel-Karlson. Producers Peter E. Lengyel, Richard Perello. Director of photography Robert Barocci. Editors Melody London, Jaycob Craycroft. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. In selected theaters.

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