Preacher's Kid
by Phil Boatwright

Preacher's Kid starring Letoya Luckett, the two-time Grammy winner from Destiny's Child, has just been released on DVD. The coming-of-age drama concerns Angie King, the talented daughter of a stern preacher. When Angie leaves home to pursue love in all the wrong places, and to seek stardom through a traveling gospel show, she discovers heartbreak, hurt, and realizes what she's left behind.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Certainly the premise is a natural. The makers have tweaked the Prodigal Son parable, updating it by changing the lead's gender, and having the father needing to learn as many lessons as his wayward child. The story is now set in the music world, allowing the singer to ease into the world of drama. It's a film not afraid to mention the name Jesus. Oh, most films do that, but here His name is not uttered as an angry expletive, but rather mentioned as a centerpiece to the spiritual life of several characters. Despite these positives, however, I had problems with the production.

I found the screener difficult to sit through, with the humor hammy and the drama heavy handed. The sidekicks for both the good girl and the bad guy were stereotypical to the max, and the lead, though pretty and charismatic, was a bit self-conscious when it came to expressing emotional range.

Then there's the music. It's loaded with songs, mostly repeating the same theme. As to the singing, I found the accepted style of loud vibrato taxing. This accentuated yell grates the eardrums much the same as Tarzan's yodel. There's no golden tone, no pitch, no real control or caressing of notes and modulation. It's just a piercing howl used much the way a strident mother does to signal her backyard-playing children that supper's on.

Of course, that's merely opinion. By viewing moments of American Idol, I can assume this warbling is enjoyed by most people who prefer today's caterwauler to the melodious sounds of Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald. (Poor Miss Ella, she couldn't get a gig today. She doesn't look like Beyoncé and she didn't screech like Mariah.)

I found the production forced, from the humor to the message to the musical approach. And though it has some uplifting elements, I've seen the subject matter presented with greater style and sensitivity.

Preacher's Kid is rated PG-13 for several minor expletives, scenes of drinking and drug use, and for sexual situations – implied rather than graphically shown. The lead is struck by her abusive love interest on several occasions. None of this content is meant to be exploitive, but rather placed in the story to drive home the results of disobedience and rebellion.

DVD Alternatives: The Gospel. A semi-autobiographical film about the transformative power of faith and forgiveness, The Gospel is a contemporary drama packed with the soaring, soulful sounds of gospel music. Set in the impassioned world of the African-American church, The Gospel tells the story of David Taylor (Boris Kodjoe), a dynamic young R&B star torn between his successful new life and the one he used to know.

Down In The Delta. A Christian mother sends her substance-abusing daughter to relatives down South. There, she learns about responsibility and the importance of family. Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Jr., Wesley Snipes, Loretta Devine.

Tender Mercies. Robert Duvall stars as a country western singer on the skids until a religious widow and her little boy take him in. Rated PG for some objectionable language in the beginning. But when the Christian woman has an effect on his life, out goes the profanity. Oscars went to Duvall and writer Horton Foote.

For information about Phil Boatwright, go to moviereporter.com.