The Preacher's Wife | Chicago Reader

The Preacher's Wife

In this 1996 Christmas movie directed by Penny Marshall, Denzel Washington is an angel sent to earth to help the reverend of Saint Matthew's parish—by falling in love with his wife (Whitney Houston). She kind of falls in love with him too, ostensibly because her husband (Courtney Vance) is so busy trying to do good he doesn't have time to spend with her. It isn't that the reverend doesn't put forth effort to help his parishioners, the messenger from on high seems to be saying, but it's effort of the wrong kind. If Reverend Biggs would just take his wife out for a night on the town he could prevent an innocent youth from being indicted or a classic villain from taking advantage of the vulnerable parish. This is the kind of message that's supposed to be soothing—if only we enjoyed ourselves more everything would fall into place—but it's disingenuous given that the movie works best when it revels in the chemistry between Houston and Washington: it wants to exploit the idea of romance while glossing over the idea of infidelity. Hypocritical and predictable, The Preacher's Wife can't be redeemed by Washington's graceful good looks and Houston's undeniable screen presence.

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