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Darrin Hill (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has maxed out more than his credit cards. After the fabricated qualifications on his resume are discovered, his credibility level reaches a questionable limit, too. The result is the loss of his job as a junior advertising executive in a New York firm.
But while trying to avoid his creditors and keep his TV from being repossessed, his financial future takes a decidedly positive upturn. A letter from his hometown of Montecarlo, Georgia names him the sole recipient of his estranged Aunt Sally's (Ann Nesby) money.
Only one small clause in the will stands between him and the $150,000 inheritance. As a dying wish, the gentle patron-who befriended the young, the old and the unwed mother-wanted Darrin to lead the Beulah Baptist choir to a first place finish in the upcoming Gospel Explosion competition.
Eager to collect his cash, Darrin doesn't let a little thing like the lack of musical training get in his way. He's sure he can feign a bogus career in the music industry that will impress the small town folks he's about to direct.
However, the least of his problems is not knowing what downbeat is. The church choir has dwindled down to a few bickering members and enlisting new singers proves to be more challenging than saving souls. Relying on audition announcements from a chain-smoking, radio DJ (Steve Harvey) and a few flyers posted around town, Darrin begins to doubt his chance for success, especially when the potential recruits start showing up for the try-outs.
Then he meets Lilly (Beyonce Knowles), a sultry jazz singer at the bar. This girl has plenty of stage presence and the voice of an angel. In fact, the only problem with signing up her up as the choir's lead vocalist is the Reverend's (Wendell Pierce) self-righteous sister, Paulina Pritchett (LaTanya Richardson). Unable to overlook the single mom's less than pure past, Paulina is ready to use the church's bylaws to keep the gifted entertainer from joining their ranks.
Great gospel music, a little R&B and even some rap are the elements that glue this film's rather choppy script together. Featuring the vocal talents of performers like Reverend Shirley Caesar, the O'Jays, the Blind Boys from Alabama and gospel rapper T-Bone, the only sour notes this film hits for family viewers may be the occasional sexual insinuations, some drinking in the church by the organist, and a few moderate profanities.
Working with a large cast, the storyline leaves little opportunity to develop most characters beyond movie stock stereotypes; the cute kid, the crabby old lady and the eccentric old man. However, The Fighting Temptations does take these assorted personalities and explore the sweet harmonies and discordant notes that make up small town life.
Oh... and you may have to fight the temptation to get up and dance.
The Fighting Temptations is rated PG-13: for some sexual references.
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyonce Knowles