DVD: The Preacher's Wife (1996)

A genuine feel-good movie!  When I heard of Whitney Houston’s death, I could not remember if I’d ever seen or heard of her. Then various people started telling me songs they remembered, and I knew I had heard some of them. Somebody else told me she was also an actress, so I looked for her movies on Netflix. This is the first, but it will certainly not be the last.

First, the casting of the movie is superb. Denzel Washington is absolutely perfect as an angel: after all, I’ve always thought he looked like one. Whitney Houston, being a devout Christian, would naturally make a good preacher’s wife even if she wasn’t so talented. Hey, people, she was at least as much an actress as a singer. And we all know she was marvelous as a singer. Her mother plays, oddly enough, the preacher’s mother-in-law. Courageous of her, given the mothers-in-law are notoriously villainous roles. She manages to be the “you know I wouldn’t interfere in other people’s business” cliche busybody and also a terrific grandmother to their two adorable kids, one of which is the story’s narrator.

You will see more than a little resemblance to the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” here. And in fact the liner notes tell me it is a remoake of a 1940s movie called “The Bishop’s Wife.” I’m going to have to look for that, too.

Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney Vance) has his share of problems and a few other people’s too. He prays for help, and in response, the Boss sends Dudley (Denzel Washington) to help. Of course, he has a handbook and gets several good jokes out of references to it. I won’t spoil those for you. Problem is, Reverend Biggs does not believe he’s really an angel, and you can’t blame him. Dudley seems far more like an interference than a help.

The Biggs kids know, though, because they were making snow angels out on the lawn where Dudley fell to the ground right out of the sky. Of course the grown-ups don’t believe them.

I was tempted to give this just four stars instead of five, because it is really pretty sugary. But heck, it’s Christmas. [In the movie, I mean. I know it’s summer out here in the so-called real world.]

Why should an atheist appreciate such a movie so much? Because I can’t help thinking that if I knew more Christians like the Biggs, I might believe, too. Or at least want to.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.