A short time ago I had the unexpected pleasure of watching and then reviewing Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself. I say unexpected, because I was looking for the typical Madea antics and ended up drawn into a compelling gospel musical that was inspirational and entertaining without ever feeling like I was sitting in mass listening to a long homily. Now I’ve just had the opportunity to see Stan Foster’s The Preacher’s Kid. There’s no doubt that Foster has been inspired by the Black Theater productions of guys like Perry. There appear to be a couple of inside swipes at Perry in the film. I call them swipes, but it’s more likely they are loving jabs. I get the impression that Foster is a fan of Perry’s and, unfortunately, has tried hard to imitate his style. The result is certainly not a terrible film at all. It’s just not a very good one, either.
The plot is based on the biblical parable of The Prodigal Son. In this case it’s the Prodigal Daughter. Bishop King (Williams) is a hard taskmaster for the Lord. He has a thriving community congregation that features one of the nation’s best gospel choirs. Of course, the choir stars his own daughter Angie (Luckett) as the soloist. They are on their way to a huge competition in New York City, and everyone expects that Angie’s going to lead them to the promised land, so to speak. But Angie is getting restless. She has dreams of a recording contract and fame and fortune. She’s tired of giving up so much for the Lord and longs for a little Angie time. Her rigorous schedule doesn’t even allow time to catch a movie from time to time. She and close friend Marcia (Kelly) sneak away to a club where a has-been recording artist Devlin (Tank) is partying. The girls make his acquaintance, and he is taken with Angie. He invites them to attend a performance of his gospel play called Daddy, Can I Come Home. Angie loves the production and is invited to a diner to eat with the cast and crew, where she loudly declares that she absolutely must be a part of the production. An impromptu audition wins her the part of understudy to the lead. It’s her father, the Bishop, who she can’t convince. She leaves even after he warns her that he wants nothing to do with her, should she go. Not very Christian, for a Bishop that constantly asks everyone around him: What would Jesus do? Certainly, he wouldn’t disown his kin. So Angie goes on the road with the production. She is seduced by player Devlin and quickly falls into the temptations of the road. Before very long, she’s drinking, taking drugs, and sleeping with the abusive star. Meanwhile, her church must prepare for the competition without their star singer. Angie soon discovers that the life she coveted isn’t all that she hoped it would be. She must endure betrayal and abuse from Devlin while finding her dream of one day singing the lead doesn’t look very promising at all. And, like The Prodigal Son of the Bible, Angie wants to go back home.
The script and idea are interesting enough. It is Stan Foster’s direction that appears to lack any real emotion here. He never seems to be all that much invested in letting us get involved in the story. Plot points happen with such speed and such minimal motivation that I never got very comfortable with the whole thing. I understood Angie’s rebellious nature, but I found it hard to believe that a girl growing up in this strict but loving environment could turn so far so fast. It doesn’t help that the actors appear to be engaging in a kind of free theater impromptu acting. It’s all very broad and always very much just on the surface. There is no passion in Angie’s passion. Foster doesn’t know how to make the story intimate enough for us to care. Unlike Perry, who blends the elements of gospel, music, comedy, and drama together in a recipe that moves the story forward, Foster throws these elements together in a sort of Mulligan’s stew. The songs are often quite good, but they appear out of nowhere, never seeming to come naturally. You never get more than a short snippet. I couldn’t ever get comfortable with the musical numbers. Luckett has a fine enough voice. but she has to vibrate it so much that you wonder if she rehearsed the song with a jackhammer in her hands. I guess it’s a style, but it isn’t one that allows the audience to get close and feel the music. King might be a great musical artist, but his acting here is bland and stereotypical. Perry infused his production with warmth and accessibility to everyone.
Preacher’s Kid is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1codec at an average 18 mbps. I get the impression that even the studio wasn’t very interested in this one. The film has a very limited bit-rate with very little in the way of extras on the disc. We’re likely talking a single-layered disc. It still doesn’t look bad, however. Sharpness and contrast are solid throughout. Colors are normal for the most part. It all has a natural look. Still, detail isn’t at all outstanding. This could almost have been merely a very good standard definition release. Nothing will take away from your experience, to be sure. It just won’t be one of those standout images that make you glad you made the switch to HD.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also somewhat of a disappointment. Again, you won’t find any flaws, but, the sound never reaches out and sweeps you off your feet with the musical performances. Some of these singers are very good, but the audio presentation doesn’t let you have any kind of dynamic reproduction in order to wow you at all. It’s all technically correct and oh so mediocre.
The Music Of The Preacher’s Kid: (8:36) HD Of course, the cast and crew are right. Composer Tim Miner did a fantastic job of writing here. It’s too bad the film doesn’t let you linger enough to enjoy his pieces. The script was written before the music, and Miner talks about creating the music in this feature.
The Prodigal Experience – Reflections On A Story: (14:58) HD The cast and crew mostly talk about the characters here. You get a pretty solid profile of all of the players. There’s a lot of love-fest stuff going on for each of the actors, and for the final two minutes, Stan Foster.
Letoya Luckett – A Rising Star: (2:34) HD This is a very brief look at the beginning actress. By now we’re seeing a lot of the exact same clips.
The Preacher’s Kid In Atlanta: (1:33) HD Cast and crew give a shout to their filming location in Atlanta. One actress says that anyone who is anyone in music has come from Atlanta. Sorry to hear that cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Nashville can’t claim any kind of credible musical scene. Who knew?
Additional Footage: (22:30) SD There are 14 scenes with a play all option. A couple of the scenes are part of a completely deleted story arc that involved an investor for the production. The rest are mostly extended versions of scenes still in the movie.
Foster invites only a select group to enjoy his work. I got the feeling that Foster wasn’t all that interested in reaching me as a white audience member, while I always felt welcome in Perry’s world. That limited appeal likely accounts for the failure this film has encountered commercially. I’m sure that outwardly Foster displays no worry about the terrible $515,000 the film brought in at the box. He shows enough disdain for us in the film to make me confident he’s not looking for my approval, or my money. So, if he doesn’t care about your money, why don’t you just keep it in your pocket? If you want an inspirational musical movie, look no further than Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself. All of these films do have one thing in common. “At the end of the show someone’s always getting saved.”