The Gospel

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
The Gospel Movie Poster Image
R&B star comes home to look after ailing family.
  • PG
  • 2005
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some greed, some family tensions, competition and arguments between childhood friends.

Violence

Two scenes showing parents' deaths.

Sex

Some sexual language and imagery (in an R&B concert, in a married couple's bedroom); no sex per se.

Language

Very mild.

Consumerism

Thematic, in the sense that characters consider how to expand and essentially, "sell" the church.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking and smoking, clearly framed as self-destructive behavior.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this film includes two scenes showing parents' deaths, and ongoing discussions about how to cope with such loss and the resulting anger and sadness. The film includes mildly sexual images (a husband and wife appear in bed together) and early on, an R&B dance performance featuring gyrating bodies. Focused on family tensions, the film includes various scenes showing discord between father and son, husband and wife, a couple trying to get back together, and former best friends. In an early scene, characters briefly smoke, dance suggestively, and drink in a red-lit nightclub. Later, in despair, a character drinks alone in his home, then while he is driving.

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What's the story?

David (Boris Kodjoe) is a flashy R&B singer, enjoying his rising fame along with his fast-talking, cigar-puffing, Hummer-driving manager Wesley (Omar Gooding). Their careers are put on hold, though, when David receives word that his father is ill. Some 15 years earlier, the Bishop Fred Taylor (Clifton Powell) disappointed his son by paying too much attention to his work and not enough to David and his dying mother. Now the prodigal son returns, to make up with his father and help save his ministry.

Is it any good?

THE GOSPEL is inspiring and energetic when it's focused on music. Assembled by Kirk Franklin, the numbers are lively and sometimes -- as in the case of Yolanda Adams' brief performance -- quite brilliant. For the most part, however, the movie is awkwardly structured and soapily slow-moving. The film is hampered by a clunky structure (some scenes seem cut together randomly, others just click time while waiting for the next choir number) that detracts from its basic theme, the simultaneous conflict and sameness between pop music stardom and church celebrity and commercialism, and the emphasis on profits that drives both.

David's confused priorities are revealed in his tense relationship with his former childhood friend and classmate, now Reverend Charles Frank (Idris Elba), who means to take over the church from Fred and feels competitive with David. In this enterprise, Frank is both egged on and challenged by his wife (and David's cousin) Charlene (Nona Gaye, mostly reduced to reaction shots). While they refer mysteriously to their "problem," Lifetime-movie-style, the reason for their estrangement is both repressed and obvious, in the form of clichés.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the long-standing hostility between father and son: assuming it's 15 years between their meetings, the son sustains and acts out his anger at his father in ways the film frames as self-destructive (his turn from the church to pop stardom, excessive sex and drinking). How do the son and father reconcile? How does their relationship mirror others in the film, between other family members (husbands and wives, in particular)? How does the movie present the church -- as a source of salvation, a site of corruption and self-interest, or a neutral ground where individuals are responsible for their own actions?

Movie details

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