The Preacher's Wife

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(Director Penny) Marshall, like an infant on her fifth or sixth Tootsie pop, has developed a stubborn addiction to sugary feel-good themes.

Similarities between holiday movies are often startling. While Tim Burton is telling stories about little green men dropping out of the sky and spreading the message of death, director Penny Marshall is telling the story of a large black man dropping out of the sky and spreading the message of Christianity.

Angel Dudley (Denzel Washington) falls from the clouds in response to Reverend Henry Biggs' request for help. Biggs has lost his belief in his own power to make a difference and it's taken its toll on his relationship with his beautiful wife, Julia (Whitney Houston).

Though this Christian tale focuses on the concepts of hope and faith, Marshall, like an infant on her fifth or sixth Tootsie pop, has developed a stubborn addiction to sugary feel-good themes. Unsure of how to convey a message through normal storytelling? There's a simple solution: Have Whitney sing a song about it. Let's face it, if the woman were playing a proctologist she'd find a place to burst out singing.

If religious films like this one have a depressing effect on atheists and agnostics due to their overt messages, just imagine how sobering they must be for zealots. It seems God has more dysfunctional angels than functional ones. Whether it's "The Prophecy," the yet-to-be-released "Michael" or this film, it seems as though heaven is run less like an orderly land of eternal wonder, and more like an ethereal version of "Dilbert."

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