I’m not a big fan of holiday films. Anyone who knows me personally knows very well that I don’t like most Christmas movies, or Christmas songs sung by anyone other than Mariah Carey. Now, I do celebrate presents, food, and hot chocolate, and I look really cute in layers, so please don’t think I’m some sort of Scrooge. I just find the holiday film genre basic as fuck and the plot and dialogue formulaeic and recycled to the point of being an expensive patchwork that’s little more than the “entertainment” embodiment of wet cardboard. That said, as far as formulas go, you can’t get much better ingredients than the one for The Preacher’s Wife.
Everyone ran to see this film because it starred Whitney Houston as Julia Biggs, the titular character, and the crown jewel of her church’s choir, who’s married to the Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance). Whitney could always hold her own when it came to acting, but those golden tones are what packed theatres, and what eclipsed her co-stars, but one thing that The Preacher’s Wife does oh-so-right is chemistry. We believe that Julia and Henry are in love and married, albeit troubled, and we also believe the relationship between Julia and Dudley (Denzel Washington), the angel whom God sends down to Earth to help the struggling preacher save his church from real estate developer (Joe Hamilton).
Julia and her son, Jeremiah (Justin Pierre Edmund) believe that Dudley is who he says he is, a messenger from God, but Henry is a bit skeptical, his secretary, Beverly (Loretta Devine), believes that Dudley is after her job, and Julia’s mother, Margueritte (Jennifer Lewis) believes that charismatic angel has the far more sinister intention of breaking up her daughter’s marriage. Margueritte’s analysis doesn’t seem to far off the mark when Dudley finds himself falling in love with Julia. Though he’s supposed to be helping the good reverend save his church so that his dwindling faith can be restored and he can focus on his neglected family once more, Dudley isn’t blind or deaf to Julia’s charms, nor is she completely immune to his attentions while her husband’s has been so sorely lacking of late. Soon, Dudley finds his heart at war with his mission, and must remind himself that Christmas is about family, and that there is a difference between guidance and interference.
With a plot based around the lives of a Baptist preacher, his gospel singing wife, and their small son, The Preacher’s Wife far exceeds the film it’s based on, The Bishop’s Wife of nearly 50 years its senior, and it’s overflowing with colour, in more ways than one! This film has everything that a great holiday movie needs. A large but not exactly crisis level problem in the central characters’ lives? Got it. Copious mentions of Jesus and the “true” meaning of the Christmas season? Got it! A stern, matronly figure? Got it! A happily ever after? Got it! More than this, The Preacher’s Wife features some of the biggest names in Black Hollywood royalty and has not only a gorgeous score (courtesy of living legend Hans Zimmerman), but also an incredible soundtrack that doubles as a timeless holiday album (for those of you who do enjoy Christmas music). This is probably one of the least cringeworthy Christmas films ever, and the fact that it was utterly lacking in pranks, horror, and antics, and incredible low on romance but was still incredibly enjoyable to a apathetic atheist like me speaks volumes.
I give this one 4 stars.