I admit it. I'm a sucker.
I'm a sucker for stories of hope and faith and family and friends. I'm a sucker for films that make me reflect upon my own life, my own choices, my own life journey and, yes, the longings of my heart.
Preacher's Kid, written and directed by Stan Foster and currently in limited nationwide release from Warner Premiere, is a film for people like me and, in case you're wondering, there are a lot of people like me who crave competently made, intelligently scripted and authentically acted films for people of faith and for people who simply struggle with life's fundamental challenges such as family, independence, success and how to be true to one's values in a world that often stresses compromise.
Angie (Letoya Luckett, formerly of R&B's Destiny's Child) is an innocent 23-year-old growing up in the small town of Augusta, Georgia whose entire life centers around her preacher father, Bishop King (Gregalan Williams, Drop Dead Diva), and life in the church community. Angie, though, is starting to feel like life is passing her by and longs to experience life outside the insulated world in which she lives. When a chance encounter with the Devlin (R&B singer/producer Durrell "Tank" Babbs), star of a gospel traveling show, leads her to an offer to travel with the group as an understudy to the female lead, Angie leaves the comfort of her community without the blessing of her father into a world that isn't at all what she expected.
A film that easily could be subtitled "The Prodigal Daughter," Preacher's Kid is about what happens when we lose our way and those events and people that bring us back home whether that be friends, faith, family or simply reaching bottom and having nowhere else to turn.
Filmed in a way reminiscent of Tyler Perry's stage and film work, Preacher's Kid will most likely resonate with those who identify with its central core of the importance of faith and community in one's life. Featuring a primarily African-American cast, Preacher's Kid has the look and feel of a Perry production with vibrant, magnificently created music integrated into the scenario. Unlike many recent Hollywood productions, think Nine or Mamma Mia!, that cast actors with the bare minimum in singing skills, writer/director Stan Foster has cast a core of notable R&B and gospel singers whose musical scenes soar while their acting is surprisingly solid.
Letoya Luckett, who soared to fame as a member of Destiny's Child, is the glue that holds Preacher's Kid together with a performance that exists on that fine line between faith and fame, dreams and devotion. Luckett's Angie is clearly a good, good woman who makes some painful and unhealthy choices along her journey of self-discovery. Preacher's Kid would not work if Luckett couldn't sell both sides of the story, a woman whose virtue is unquestionable and, yet, a woman who still manages to stray from all those things she knows to be true. Fortunately, Luckett is a joy to behold and her Angie is a woman whose journey we become invested in the further into her own personal abyss she falls.
Durrell "Tank" Babbs has the challenge, as well, of selling Devlin, a true player disguised as a gospel wonderboy who is, in reality, only trying to prolong his 15 minutes of fame in a world that is often a bit too desperate for positive role models. While Babbs is a touch more convincing as the smooth player/gospel singer than in scenes where he becomes increasingly abusive, his performance is rich and satisfying in the way he makes it readily apparent why a woman such as Angie could be seduced into his world.
Gregalan Williams is rock solid as Bishop King, Angie's devoted father who sets forth an ultimatum yet must ultimately decide himself to let go of reason and practice faith and forgiveness. Sharif Atkins (ER), the always dependable Clifton Powell (Ray) and Atlantic Records artist Trey Songz also shine in supporting turns.
Kudos to Stan Foster, both as writer and director, for creating a film that honestly and authentically presents the challenges and temptations of everyday life in a way that feels more rich and natural than is often present in faith-centered films. Even when dealing with sexuality and a topic such as domestic abuse, Foster does so with refreshing honesty and commitment that seems to scream out "C'mon folks, this is something we need to deal with in our community and families."
Tech credits are solid across the board, especially the camera work of Dave Perkal, Simon Dobbins' production design that distinctly yet naturally paints two different worlds, and a stellar soundtrack.
Inspiring and faithful without compromise yet written around universal themes, Preacher's Kid is a wonderful example of how entertaining faith-based cinema can be while maintaining its core values of faith, hope and worship. Behind a soaring performance by Letoya Luckett and a solid supporting cast, Preacher's Kid is a reminder that when all else fails we all need a place called home.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic