The Gospel

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It should come as no surprise that a flood of faith-based films would start arriving in theaters in the wake of the astonishing, $400+ million box-office magic of Mel Gibson’s, independently-produced, The Passion of the Christ. But what probably couldn’t have been predicted, is that a major Hollywood studio might create a wholesome, Christian-oriented, family picture as engaging and entertaining as The Gospel.

Ostensibly-inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son as found in Luke 15: 11-32, the movie was written and directed by Rob Hardy. Now unless Mr. Hardy has been Born-Again, it’s more than a little ironic that he’s the brains behind this moving morality play, since he’s previously best known for Trois, Trois 2 and Trois 3, a steamy trilogy of thinly-veiled skin flicks passed off as psychological thrillers.

Be that as it may, The Gospel is set in present-day Atlanta, and features an ensemble cast headed by Boris Kodjoe as David Taylor, the son of the much-beloved pastor (Clifton Powell) of the New Revelations Baptist Church. With the help of an impassioned choir, Bishop Taylor has managed, for years, to keep his loyal congregation on its feet most Sunday mornings.

Soon after the opening credits, we learn that, although David had once envisioned following in his father’s footsteps, he’s long-since abandoned a spiritual path for a secular one, finding fame and fortune as a pop singing sensation. Now a teen idol, he currently has a Top 40 salacious hit climbing up the charts, salaciously entitled “Let Me Undress You.� By contrast, during David’s conspicuous absence, his childhood friend Frank (Idris Elba) has emerged as the heir apparent to his father’s pulpit. For not only is Frank an ordained minister, but he’s married David’s cousin, Charlene (Nona Gaye). The problem is that the young couple is already estranged due to her infertility and his transparent aspirations to become a televangelist by turning her uncle’s fledging church into a media empire via a money-making infomercial.

The plot thickens when Bishop Taylor is stricken with an advanced cancer and left little time to get his affairs in order. When David learns that his father is terminally-hill, he puts plans for his next concert tour on hold and returns home to take care of his dad, over the objections of his avaricious hangers-on.
Though he had been living life in the fast lane, this return to his roots has the superstar rethinking the many selfish and materialistic choices he’s made. The redeemed ladies man even thinks of settling-down, especially after he sets his eyes on Rain (Tamyra Gray), a single-mom raising an adorable five year-old (China Anne McClain) with the help of her forever-meddling sister, Maya (Keshia Knight Pulliam).

While The Gospel introduces more characters than necessary to deliver its simple message about the importance of faith and family, its salient points get delivered despite the clutter of a few too many sub-plots. The script, though occasionally given to religious asides which might bother non-Christians, deals mostly with commonly-confronted, everyday issues of a universal nature.

The best reason to recommend this movie might be its infectious, irresistible spiritual soundtrack, guaranteed to have persons of any faith swaying in their seats. The uplifting music was arranged by Kirk Franklin and imperceptibly woven into the storyline by adding a number of Gospel greats right into the cast, including Yolanda Adams, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin and Martha Munizzi. Expect to dab away a few tears as you dance up the aisle.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG for adult themes, suggestive material and mild epithets.
Running time: 98 minutes
Distributor: Columbia TriStar

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