The Gospel clearly has one goal in mind: to get the world interested in gospel music. That’s actually an admirable goal, especially in these times of foul-mouthed rap music that celebrates murder, prostitutes, and drugs. Even the film points that out. The surrounding story behind this goal is a convoluted melodrama that tries to strike every chord in the book, but at the end of the day a good heart and a warm family message prevail.
We meet David Taylor (Kodjoe), son of renowned Bishop Fred Taylor (Powell), at the beginning of the film as he is dedicated to the church choir and related activities as a young man. Tragedy strikes within his family, however, and he soon finds himself abandoning the teachings of a God whom he believes has done him wrong. Fast forward fifteen years and David is a rising R&B star, living a life of booze and easy women. He doesn’t communicate much with his family or friends from his old town, including his best buddy growing up, Frank (Elba). Illness strikes his family again, however, and David goes home to find the congregation and church in shambles. David must makes amends with people from his past life and work to find a way to rebuild the church his father put on the map.
Writer/Director Rob Hardy has crafted a pretty engaging film, even if it does ride the rails of the ridiculous at times. The relationship between David and his father is the centerpiece of the film, and it’s well-written and sincere. Hardy also makes a wise choice in not including unnecessary humor that was the demise of a similar film released earlier this year, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. There are numerous subplots, including a tired and cliché-ridden romance between David and local girl (Gaye) who’s divorced, but her husband is moving back to town. Fortunately, Hardy turns the focus away from it by the time the musical climax comes around.
The performances are quite good. Relative newcomer Boris Kodjoe will inevitably capture the heart of every female in the crowd, but he also has some pretty impressive musical chops. Film veteran Clifton Powell steals the show with a heartfelt performance as the old Bishop who truly regrets not being there enough for his son. Strong supporting work is turned in by Idris Elba, Dwayne Boyd, and Nona Gaye.
The Gospel already has a built-in audience, and I imagine that they’ll be pretty satisfied with this musical/drama. Whether the film will spread the popularity of gospel music is anyone’s guess, but the soundtrack is catchy and filled with plenty of infectious tunes that should ensure good sales. As for the film, you probably already know if it is for you, but if you’re undecided, I would recommend giving it a look.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 103 Minutes
Rating: PG for thematic elements including suggestive material, and mild language.
Theatrical Release: October 7, 2005
Directed by: Rob Hardy
Written by: Rob Hardy
Cast: Boris Kodjoe, Clifton Powell, Nona Gaye, Idris Elba, Aloma Wright, Donnie McClurkin