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The Preacher's Wife Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Matt Hough, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Remaking classic films is a risky proposition, and when the film in question is a classic holiday film, the chances of its being a success are even more limited. True, the producers of The Preacher’s Wife have put a soulful spin on the original 1947 The Bishop’s Wife and made it a quasi-musical in the process, but that doesn’t brush away the decades of cobwebs and moldy underpinnings from the basic story of the hopeless becoming the hopeful through the intervention of a friendly angel. The Preacher’s Wife seems far more out of touch with its time than the original fantasy ever did.





    The Preacher’s Wife (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Penny Marshall

    Studio: Touchstone
    Year: 1996
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 124 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
    Subtitles:  SDH, Spanish

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 20.00


    Release Date: August 7, 2012

    Review Date: August 1, 2012




    The Film

    2.5/5


    Faced with the burdens of a failing church, a crisis of faith, a crumbling marriage, and the incessant prodding of a millionaire developer (Gregory Hines) who’s eager to have the valuable land the church sits on, Rev. Henry Biggs (Courtney Vance) prays for some immediate help, and he gets it in the form of the friendly, gregarious angel Dudley (Denzel Washington). Biggs refuses to believe an angel is in his midst, but his wife Julia (Whitney Houston) and son Jeremiah (Justin Pierre Edmund) find his presence most agreeable and welcome him into the family. But as Dudley works his magic, the attractions of the real world weave their spell on him including an unmistakable and reciprocated attraction for Julia.


    Nat Mauldin and Allan Scott based their script on the original 1947 screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici, but while the basic story remains the same (and thus the old-fashioned structure, problems, and resolutions from decades before), having Whitney Houston as one of their stars injects a gospel motif into the storytelling that extends the running time unconscionably to over two hours. Even with Houston in good voice, the sheer amount of musical sequences (including both the rehearsal and performance versions of “Who Would Imagine a King?” during a Christmas pageant) totals too much of a good thing, and some judicious cutting should have been the order of the day. “I Believe in You and Me,” “You Are Loved,” “I Love the Lord” and a soulful version of “Joy to the World” at the climax all run on too long with Houston’s miasma-filled renditions becoming repetitive, not aided by director Penny Marshall’s glacial pacing and only a slight handful of humorous moments. The Christmas theme isn’t milked for much holiday spirit, and subplots involving a young neighborhood boy accused of robbery and developer Joe Hamilton’s designs on the church are momentary problems easily handled by Dudley’s smiling countenance and gentle manner. The flirtation ice skating sequence posits more sexual tension than was present in the original Bishop’s Wife, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better.


    After many heavily dramatic films, Denzel Washington appears to be having a fine time as Dudley, and his screen charisma and effortless on-screen demeanor makes him unquestionably the best thing about the movie. Whitney Houston isn’t much of an actress and doesn’t know how to plumb the frustrations of a downward marriage spiral, but her expressive singing is undoubtedly fine. Courtney Vance is a fine actor, but his coldness as a performer and his rather charmless disposition doesn’t endear himself to viewers even after his transformation. Gregory Hines’ villain is strictly one dimensional (his transformation is even more poorly handled than Vance’s), and Jenifer Lewis motormouth mother-in-law is a tiresome stereotype straight out of the old melodramas. Loretta Devine as the church secretary with a secret crush on van driver Paul Bates is completely wasted in this underdeveloped role.



    Video Quality

    3.5/5


    The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness varies from average to above average, but the images are never really crisp or razor sharp. Color saturation is also only average in nature though flesh tones appear natural. Contrast is sometimes milky leading to indistinct black levels. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.



    Audio Quality

    4/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix only really shows its stuff during the musical sequences (admittedly a large portion of the movie) as the church choir with Houston as lead singer fills the soundstage with glorious sounds. Elsewhere, ambient sounds in church and elsewhere don’t get much spread around the soundstage or only come in at climactic moments (rousing applause at the climax of the movie which fills the rear channels rather late). Dialogue is always understandable and has been placed in the center channel.



    Special Features

    2/5


    A production featurette is an EPK offering with 4 ½ minutes of sound bites from stars Denzel Washington, Courtney Vance, Whitney Houston, and director Penny Marshall. There is no mention that this is a remake of The Bishop’s Wife. It’s in 480i.


    The theatrical trailer, also in 480i, runs for 1 minute.


    There are promo trailers for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Odd Life of Timothy Green.



    In Conclusion

    2.5/5 (not an average)


    The Preacher’s Wife may be a modern remake of a postwar Christmas fantasy picture, but it’s as old-fashioned and predictable as can be, lacking any freshness of thought or execution and enlivened only by some spirited singing by Whitney Houston. Fans of the stars may find this Blu-ray a slight upgrade to their DVDs of the film, but otherwise, a rental might be the best plan for this release.



    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     

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