Sister Act Two: Back in the Habit

1993 Directed by Bill Duke. Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Najimy, James Coburn, Maggie Smith, Wendy Makkena, Mary Wickes, Barnard Hughes, Michael Jeter, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lauren Hill, Ron Johnson.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 17, 1993

How do you spell crass? When it is so patently obvious that there is no reason to make a movie other than to capitalize on its predecessor's success, that's how I spell crass. It's clear that no one's creative juices were really flowing on this project. Not even trickling. Oh, maybe some of the kids hired on to play the inner-city high-schoolers held out hope as they clunked their way through their characters' troubled lives to find self-esteem and personal rewards through singing double entendre-ed soul classics in harmony. Yes, the first Sister Act was a sleeper success story -- a surprise hit and box office phenomenon. But that didn't necessarily make it good. Lucky, maybe, or cute… but worthy of repetition? I don't think so. Whoopi Goldberg's made no bones about the fact that an awful lot of zeroes were dangled in front of her in order to convince her to reprise her singing nun act. James Coburn, it can only be assumed, needed some quick cash to pay off some burdensome financial debts in order to stoop to playing this blustering shell of a villain. And what of Maggie Smith, a woman esteemed enough to be a Dame? Director Bill Duke was once someone I regarded as an artist with vision. As the guiding intelligence in films such as Deep Cover, A Rage in Harlem, his debut film The Killing Floor and numerous TV episodes of shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Knots Landing and Miami Vice, Duke proved himself a significant visual stylist and compelling storyteller. Then, last time out, he misfired with the awkward comedy The Cemetery Club. Now this. What are we to think? It's not that Sister Act 2 is godawful or anything. It's just that it features a plot that could be foretold by any unchurched fool. And though Goldberg does her admirable best with the one-liners and comic asides, everyone else in the story is utterly wasted and/or superfluous. The movie's resounding theme is “Cash in, cash in.” Certainly movies are a business, but it's only good form for them to at least pretend that they have some reasons for existence other than the purely mercenary. The goal of entertainment has been forgotten here in the mad dash for formulaic guarantees. These comedy nun pushers have forgotten that there's no bottom line at heaven's gate.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Sister Act Two: Back in the Habit, Bill Duke, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Najimy, James Coburn, Maggie Smith, Wendy Makkena, Mary Wickes, Barnard Hughes, Michael Jeter, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lauren Hill, Ron Johnson

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