The Fighting Temptations Studio: Paramount Year: 2003 Rated: PG-13 Length: 122 minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, English and French Surround English Subtitles Special Features: 8 extended musical numbers, 7 extended scenes, theatrical trailer, previews Available in OAR and Fullscreen editions S.R.P. $29.99 Release Date: February 3, 2004 Formula films are usually like a stale doughnut and cold coffee. Even if there was something really good there, my enjoyment is greatly diminished by having been there, done that - long ago and many times before. The Fighting Temptations is a formula film, but it somehow rises above stale doughnut status and stands as a respectable film - even if it does feel somehow familiar. The film starts with a groan-inducingly familiar premise. Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as Darrin Hill, a slick but unlucky NYC advertising executive who returns to his backwater home town in Georgia for his Aunt Sally’s funeral. Darrin stands to inherit quite a sum from his aunt... but there’s a catch (there’s always a catch, isn’t there?). In order to collect the money, Darrin must fulfill his aunt’s dying wish - he must lead a local church choir and somehow win the annual “Gospel Explosion” choir competition. Now, I know what you’re thinking... (and stop rolling your eyes). Yes, the story of the inheritance with unrealistic stipulations has been done time and again throughout the history of film and television. And yes, there is more formulaic about the film than just that... but let me go on... So Darrin, in his search for talent to fill the choir, finds an interestingly eclectic group of people who are completely devoid of talent. He opens auditions to the unfaithful, in hopes that he can find someone who can sing. Eventually, he finds some interesting talent - and, he finds an exceptional talent in Lily (Beyonce Knowles), a beautiful jazz singer with a voice straight out of heaven. Of course, in the end, we find that Darrin’s dear aunt left him something far more valuable than money. Formulaic? You bet. Hokey, even. But still, this is quite an enjoyable film - warm of heart, funny, and full of rousing music. I really found it quite enjoyable. The Video The Fighting Temptations is presented in anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with a bright picture, excellent contrast and black levels, and good shadow detail. Colors are perfectly saturated and look wonderful. The picture sharpness is more than adequate, with no obvious ringing to be seen. Grain is virtually absent - even the darker scenes exhibit only a very fine grain. This is an nice transfer. The Audio The audio tracks include Dolby Digital English 5.1, English Dolby Surround and French Dolby Surround. The 5.1 track has excellent frequency response, with a wonderfully clean and rich bass present in the many musical tracks. The bass is strong, but not overbearing. Music fills the front soundstage with plenty of use of the surround channels for ambient effects. The film is light on the sound effects - it’s all about the music - and this soundtrack delivers. Dialog is consistently clear and resonant. Special Features Special features are not anamorphically enhanced. 8 Extended Music Numbers provide a bit more coverage than was seen in the final cut of the film. There is a “Play All” feature, which is nice. These are not anamorphically enhanced, but for those numbers that were cut short in editing, this is a welcome feature. The extended music numbers include: “Heaven Knows” - performed by Faith Evans “Everything I Do” - performed by Beyonce Knowles & Bilal “Loves Me Like a Rock” - performed by The O’Jays “Down by the Riverside / To Da River - Performed by The O’Jays, T-Bone, Zane and Montell Jordan “Rain Down” - performed by Angie Stone and Eddie Levert, Sr., with Walter Williams, Sr., Melba Moore, Montell Jordan, Zane and T-Bone “Soldier” - performed by Blind Boys of Alabama “Waiting” - performed by Ramiyah “Won’t Ever Change” - performed by Mary, Mary 7 Extended Scenes On the Way to the Funeral Rounding Up the Choir (this one is a significant 7:30 cut) Lucius Talks About Booty Jimmy B and Briggs Darrin Breakdances to “Time to Come Home” Darrin and Lucius in the Car (more of a blooper than an extended scene) Reed Takes Darrin for a Taxi Ride Theatrical Trailer Previews for: Against the Ropes Timeline The School of Rock Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star 4th Annual BET Awards Final Thoughts I was pleasantly surprised by this film. While far from original, it’s got heart. This is a funny, warmhearted film that pushes all the right (familiar) buttons. Paramount has delivered a fine transfer with a few welcome extras.