There are two perplexing questions I'd like to ask about 'The Preacher's Wife.' First, why did they feel they had to remake 'The Bishop's Wife'? I can answer my own question there. Because Hollywood will remake almost anything they can if they think it will benefit them somehow, and Christmas movies are the easiest to make over and over again. Secondly, and most importantly, why is Touchstone (Disney) releasing a Christmas movie in the dead of summer? It's too far removed from Whitney Houston's untimely death to capitalize on the publicity, and it's way too far away from the Christmas season. I know we usually start Christmas as early as possible in the U.S., but in August? Really? This question I can't answer myself. I see absolutely no sane reason why 'The Preacher's Wife' is being released on Blu-ray at this time.
So, we all know the story right, because when we were kids our moms made us watch 'The Bishop's Wife' over and over. Watching dreamy Cary Grant whimsically intervene in the affairs of a bishop and his wife. Most of us could probably tell that our moms would've given anything to take Loretta Young's place in that movie, simply because there's nothing quite like staring into the eyes of Cary Grant. Well, I haven't done it, but I assume it'd be a magical moment.
Since that movie became a hit, and has to be watched every Christmas along with a long list of other Christmas-themed titles, someone had the bright idea to remake it. This time Cary Grant's role as Dudley has been inhabited by Denzel Washington. Washington has more than enough charisma to carry the part. He's actually pretty good in the role, but the movie gets absolutely lost in the fact that Whitney Houston is in a starring role.
Houston takes over Loretta Young's role of Julia (this time around the family's name is Biggs instead of Brougham). The problem comes when the movie, thinking that simply because Houston is in the movie, has to feature her solo singing as much as they possibly can. It's daunting looking at the running time and realizing this remake is over two hours long compared to the 109 minutes of the original. Where'd all that extra time come from? Well, it's no doubt due to the elongated scenes of Houston belting out songs like she's starring in her own music video. The first singing scene is fine, once it reaches the third or fourth, however, it becomes a tiring exercise.
The movie has completely forgotten its roots. It's forgotten its message about the Christmas spirit and has instead settled on having Whitney Houston take up most of the time with her singing. I'm not against her musical talents in anyway, but when they bring the narrative to a screeching halt, just because the filmmakers wanted to insert yet another Houston performance, that's when the gimmick really starts to overstay its welcome.
Washington really is the movie's only saving grace, but his thoughtful reproduction of Grant's Dudley is continuously fighting for air time against Houston's vocals. It's a shame too, because every time Washington is doing his thing, he makes you feel good. He exudes the Christmas spirit and makes you feel like you could watch this movie every holiday season. Just fast forward through Houston's nonsensical music performances and you should be fine.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Touchstone release comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The disc is 50GBs. It's marked on the back as being a region free release.
It doesn't seem much restoration work done to 'The Preacher's Wife.' Its 1080p picture doesn't look like the team at Touchstone/Disney put a whole lot of effort into making it look stellar for Blu-ray. Can you blame them though? It's an obscure catalog title being released at one of the weirdest times I could imagine this movie being released.
With that said, the movie still looks good, even a bit better than I remember the DVD being. The film doesn't look like it's been DNR'd heavily, the grain structure is still intact. The overall image is rather soft though. Facial details like wrinkles and facial hair are easily discernible in close-ups, but the mid-range shots are as soft as soft can be. There's no real detail to be had in mid-range shots.
Colors look good, whether it be the bright gold robes of the church choir or the light gray of Dudley's sharp duds. Although, the colors don't really pop as much as they simply blend. The softness hampers the colors from really jumping off the screen. Blacks can be a bit murky also, offering up shadows that crush and swallow figures, objects, and faces. This is a pretty standard looking catalog release. It isn't going to wow anyone, but it makes due.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is basically in the same boat. There are a few times where the mix cranks up the volume and adds in the rear channels. Yep, you guessed it. Those times are whenever Houston is on stage belting out her iconic vocals. The "hallelujahs" of the church choir ring through the rear channels, but that's about the only time the rears are utilized. For the most part they stay silent, offering a little bit of ambient sound during the ice skating scene.
I have no idea why 'The Preacher's Wife' is being released right now. It really doesn't make any sense to release this movie in August, with Christmas being a long time off. People will forget that it was even released once the holidays roll around. I simply don't understand Disney's strategy here. The movie hasn't held up well either. Denzel is great, but the rest of the film crumbles because it relies far too much on Houston's singing, rather than telling a Christmastime story. The audio and video are only so-so. I don't see any reason why I'd even say this release is worth a look. If it was November/December time I'd probably say it was because of the season, but who's going to give this a look in the dog days of summer? For fans only.