A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sister Act is a 1992 comedy in which Whoopi Goldberg plays a Reno casino singer who teaches a convent of nuns how to sing after she's placed there as part of a witness protection program. While most of this movie takes place in a cloistered Catholic convent, the story begins with a murder committed off-screen by the main character's boyfriend, a stereotypical Italian-American mafia character. On the other hand, the nuns in this movie are not a monolithic stereotype but viewed as individuals of varying personalities and temperaments. When the main character, a lounge singer with a shady past only alluded to, is sent to a convent to hide, she doesn't respect the rules (the movie's tagline: "No booze! No sex! No drugs! No way!"), makes many jokey references to what she's forced to live without, and sneaks out to a biker bar. While she rebels against her holy surroundings, she also uses her talents to spiff up the choir and the community. Some gun violence besides the killing at the beginning. Occasional profanity, including a strongly implied f-word when Goldberg's character says, dripping with angry sarcasm, "Bless you!"
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Whoopi Goldberg plays Deloris Van Cartier, a Reno lounge singer and dancer who is forced to leave her racy lifestyle behind when she witnesses her gangster boyfriend (Harvey Keitel) shoot someone. The police hide her away in an inner-city convent where she must reluctantly pretend, with the help of an equally reluctant Mother Superior played by Maggie Smith, to be a nun. Deloris' expertise as a doo-wop Supremes-style performer pays off when she is employed to rescue the severely off-key choir's reputation. Suddenly, the once sleep-inducing choir is as lively as a Broadway show.
Is it any good?
The musical numbers really make SISTER ACT. And Goldberg shines as the rebellious "nun" whose iconoclastic attitude affects not just the choir, but everyone in the convent who soon dons new habits -- both good and bad. Deloris' gregarious spirit and instant popularity eventually garner unneeded media attention: the Pope comes to visit, and soon after, TV crews. When this captures the attention of Deloris' ex-boyfriend, who is still trying to find her, the mob-crime focus of the story is back on, bringing PG-style justice to make a happy ending.
Sister Act's success -- due mostly to Goldberg, who was brilliantly cast after Bette Midler abandoned the project -- spawned a 1992 performance by Goldberg and the "nuns" at a Democratic fundraiser for Bill Clinton, and Sister Act: The Musical, a stage adaptation of the film, premiered at the Pasadena playhouse in 2006. A sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, followed in 1993.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "the mob" and Italian-American stereotypes and why they are so prevalent -- nearly revered -- on TV and in movies.
This movie is an example of a "fish out of water" movie, a common premise in which a character from an opposite walk of life must now adapt to a new life in unfamiliar surroundings. Why is this type of story so popular in both dramas and comedies? What are some other examples of "fish out of water" stories?
Has this movie held up for modern audiences, or does it seem dated? What are the qualities that might make a movie stand the test of time?
- In theaters: May 29, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: November 6, 2001
- Cast: Kathy Najimy, Maggie Smith, Whoopi Goldberg
- Director: Emile Ardolino
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some violence and mild language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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