For such a bona fide star, Whitney Houston has not had much of a film career. Granted, her choice of projects has been questionable. But the camera loves her and her star power compensates for her lack of acting ability.
One of Houston’s stronger films is THE PREACHER’S WIFE, Penny Marshall’s pleasant remake of 1947’s THE BISHOP’S WIFE. Houston stars as the wife of Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance), whose marriage is in trouble and whose church is under threat of being torn down by local-boy-made-good (Gregory Hines). When he asks God for help, he gets more than he bargained for in the form of a handsome angel, Dudley (Denzel Washington). The film is entertaining, if overly long, and contains some great gospel numbers fronted by Whitney’s powerful pipes.
Hans Zimmer‘s score, what little there is of it, was nominated for an Oscar, back in the day when the Academy split the Score category into Drama and Musical/Comedy. The main theme in the high violins floats in the clouds over the opening credits before hurtling to earth as the story begins.
A seven-note figure accentuated by cascading bells signals Dudley’s heavenly powers. And Zimmer even gets a chance at gospel writing, with some mildly roof-raising hallelujah’s. Henry’s theme is voiced in the piano, low strings and English horn backed by low choral voices.
Much of the score utilizes electric guitar and pop rhythms. If this was Zimmer’s attempt at hip, inner-city music, it doesn’t work. In fact, it seems at odds with the charming, almost magical, rest of the score which matches the wonder of the holiday story.
The score was a welcome change from the usual Zimmer bombast, but that nomination was nothing more than something to round out the category. In fact, the tape that was sent to Academy voters has under 15 minutes of score. Still, the music is harmless enough in the film, if not particularly distinctive.