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The Fighting Temptations

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The Fighting Temptations

Cast:
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The Fighting Temptations

Cast:

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If the endless stream of cinematic yuppie-redemption fantasies provides any indication, the advertising business is constantly rocked by mass defections of hard-charging, cell-phone-dependent workaholics who rediscover the simple pleasures of life outside the rat race. World-class shit-magnet Cuba Gooding Jr. plays one such figure in The Fighting Temptations: He's a soulless New York junior executive who lies his way up the corporate ladder, only to be tossed aside once his deception is uncovered. Gooding's most egregious moral transgression involves helping pasty corporate drones peddle malt liquor, but as far as the film is concerned, he might as well be dealing crack cocaine to toddlers. Clearly in need of redemption and a change of scenery, Gooding takes steps toward both when he heads to the South for his aunt's funeral. There, in one of countless groan-inducing plot contrivances, he learns that he stands to inherit $150,000 if he can lead a small-town choir to glory in a big gospel competition. Pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles, whose charisma rapidly dissipates when she stops singing, co-stars as his arbitrary love interest, a noble-yet-sultry single mother who joins a Gooding-directed choir stocked with enough ringers (Angie Stone, Melba Moore, Eddie Levert, Montell Jordan) to make it something of a gospel Dream Team. A ne'er-do-well-sees-the-light fantasy, fish-out-of-water comedy, and ragtag-misfits-compete-in-a-big-competition crowd-pleaser all at the same time, The Fighting Temptations lazily mixes and matches from three time-tested formulas, but still relies on the convenient appearances of a sabotage-happy busybody to keep the plot mechanics creaking forward. The film's only saving grace, not surprisingly, is its gospel performances, which have an effervescence that not even the clumsy staging of director Jonathan Lynn (who traveled down this road before with My Cousin Vinny) can destroy. The energetic musical sequences help make it feel warmer and more ingratiating than it otherwise would, which is fortunate, since this rickety vehicle needs all the help it can get.

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