Church may not be for everyone, but there is one part of the weekly ceremony that can potentially reach those on the outside, even if the words and the preachings do not: gospel music. Growing up, the only church singing I ever heard was from the same crusty old folks going through the motions on the same hymns, over and over, with about as much soul and enthusiasm as a Ben Stein monotone lecture. Seriously, they were all half-dead, snooze-inducing renditions...hardly something to invigorate an audience. But there's a wide range of faiths that have some very active, lively, and soulful musical backdrops to them, that can spread the word in ways that a man on a podium never could, appealing to all ages.
'Preacher's Kid' wasn't my first foray into the more vibrant, lively version of church choir, but it was most certainly my introduction to the premise of the Chitlin' Circuit, an African American venue for plays catering to an audience that doesn't always get equal representation. Sure, Tyler Perry's plays could also be considered "urban plays," but I've still not had the pleasure of experiencing any of Perry's non-theatrical exhibitions. It's an interesting subtext to the standard performing and recording industry, and gives this particular film an avenue to make an allusion to one of Christianity's more famed parables, the Prodigal Son (also known as the Lost Son).
Angie King (LeToya Luckett) is a 21 year old preacher's daughter, the featured soloist in the church choir, the womanly presence in her father's household, and a young woman who seriously needs to spread her wings and fly. She dreams of being a star, and when she gets the chance to join a traveling stageplay group performing "Daddy Can I Come Back Home?," she wants nothing more than to use it as a springboard to success. Only, her father (Gregory Alan Williams) will have none of it, forcing his child to choose between his flock, or a world without him in it. Angie chooses independence, and she'll soon learn to regret it.
The promise of stardom was nothing but a manipulative lie on the part of the male lead, former chart topping musician Devlin Mitchell (Tank). As Angie encounters a strange culture shock, she'll discover that perhaps her strict upbringing may not have been as bad for her as she once believed. As her friends reveal they're nothing but long in the tooth, and lovers show they're nothing but the worst for her, the only question in Angie's mind is "Daddy, can I come back home?"
Luckett is no stranger to a tumultuous singing career, after her years with Destiny's Child ended with a few ugly lawsuits against her management (fellow member Beyonce Knowles' father), and the struggles of reestablishing herself in the industry. As such, she seems a perfect fit for the character, having grown up in church choirs, knowing exactly what it's like to be betrayed by friends, and being on a roller coaster known as the music industry. But it's a damn shame she couldn't act her way out of a Pfizer commercial. The entire cast is a bit less than experienced, although their combined knowledge of the industry puts fellow Georgians the Kendrick brothers to shame.
The film's parallel between the story that unfolds, and the one shown on stage is a bit too obvious, to seemingly everyone in the world but the main character, making me wonder if we're supposed to be sympathetic to someone who is so blinded by her ambitions that she doesn't see the analogies right under her very nose. On top of that, while violence against women is very wrong and never justified, am I to feel sympathy towards a young woman who takes more than a few hits (the second one in the film is almost comedic in its delivery, a serious no-no), yet keeps coming back for more? I prefer my leads to be intelligent enough to know that they're either in over their heads, or in a bad situation, and Angie is apparently too dumb to know this. The girl with so much soul on stage, but seemingly has none in her heart as the film progresses, and it's difficult to watch as she repeatedly gets treated like a dog by "the bad boy who loves God." Newflash: He doesn't love God, or you.
'Preacher's Kid' is an interesting look at a group of people whose work is little known on this side of the country, but unlikable, one dimensional cliche characters, corny dialogue, some seriously wrong overtones, and more than a few cop outs at the end of the film to make it "all right, alright" make the film a bit too messy and weak for its own good. The final fifteen minutes or so of the film (don't worry, I won't spoil the cop outs) offered a complete change in logic from everything we've seen up to that point, like a crummy tacked-on happy ending that resolves every single issue in the film in one fell swoop, in an attempt to prevent offending anyone, and simultaneously removing the point of every single scene up to that point. It wasn't divine intervention, it was sloppy, feel-good writing. Yes, the parable ends on a happy note, too, but at least it has a message. The 'Preacher's Kid' does not.
'Preacher's Kid' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/VC-1 encode at 1.85:1, that is quite solid.
Contrast is spot on, colors are vibrant and rarely inhibited, while black levels are strong and realistic. Detail levels are quite good as well, with sets and characters all getting a great deal of attention, even if it's sometimes unflattering. Skin tones are accurate, and never off or awkward, while there is no major tampering or any serious issue to be found, other than the random flat scenes that can dominate the runtime of the film.
A praise worthy transfer, to be sure.
The audio for 'Preacher's Kid' was a bit of a disappointment for me. I'm used to music-related releases sounding superb, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track found here just does its job, nothing more. The soundtrack has little restraint, firing on all cylinders through all channels, but it never truly has that pop, that wow that you get with the better music releases. Room dynamics and activity can be a bit questionable, but dialogue is always understandable, and co-mingles wonderfully with the other elements in the mix. Bass levels are soft, but an active complement, nonetheless. I just wish there would have been more "oomph," as it were, as I wanted to hear the gospel and soul music with a bit more power, strength, and conviction behind them. Instead, I have to settle for the fact that random scenes have a constant rustling in the background that was quite distracting.
There isn't much content on the DVD of 'Preacher's Kid,' so this section is quite brief.
There aren't many films representing the Southern urban lifestyle on Blu-ray, and there are even fewer that show the blended religion/entertainment backdrop that African Americans in this country have built. 'Preacher's Kid' fills both voids, but it does it in such a sloppy, unimaginative manner that it may not even appeal to it's very specific target audience. The Blu-ray release of the film has very, very good video and audio qualities, and many more extras than the DVD release, making it a bit less of a blow. Curious parties like myself may do best with a rental, but those who visit the circuits shown in this film may want to give this film a look, since so few other films give this entertainment any attention whatsoever.