Old School Friday: Sister Act 2
Technically the theme is “Blogger’s Choice,” so I choose to revisit one of my favorite family movies, 1993’s Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit (what a great pun). If you didn’t watch this movie dozens of times back then, or haven’t even seen it at all, you should. I’m declaring it a classic because of (1) the music and (2) the fact that it made the Sister Act series into a black franchise.
Far superior in entertainment value and repeat watchability than the original, Sister Act 2 was like a Broadway show compared to 1992’s plain vanilla Sister Act. For those of you who only remember the music, Whoopi Goldberg reprises her role as Deloris Van Cartier – Vegas headliner turned nun – to teach music at a Catholic school in danger of being closed by the diocese. Masquerading as “Sister Mary Clarence,” Deloris turns a room full of suspiciously talented urban rapscallions into a competitive singing and dancing ensemble. Improbable yes, but what better way to showcase a cast so brimming with emerging entertainers?
Before I pick the cast apart I want to choose something from the soundtrack that didn’t feature the cast at all: “Never Gonna Let You Go” by Hi-Five, which also appears on their 1993 album Faithful. This song is easily in my top 50 of all time, and was the last R&B top-ten hit the group had. As you probably know, lead singer Tony Thompson died of an overdose in 2007.
So now back to the cast and what made Sister Act 2 such a jam-fest. A young smush-faced Lauryn Hill, Ryan Toby from the ill-fated group City High, flash-in-the-pan Def Jam sensation Tanya Blount, and token white girl Jennifer Love Hewitt were among the main characters. Even the actors credited simply as “Classroom Kid,” included working actors of today such as Monica Calhoun and Patrick Malone. Starting with City High boy, see how many little stars you can pick out as the choir sings “Oh Happy Day.”
That video has over 9.8 million hits on YouTube and I think it’s totally justified. I’m not at all churchy or even religious but that song gives me a chill.
During the summer of 2001, the popularity of the next song among a certain sliver of the gay community was especially evident at a little Greenwich Village bar for men called “Pieces.” Imagine “The Blue Oyster” from the Police Academy movies, just with fewer guys dressed as biker cops, weekly karaoke, and shirtless waiters serving up colorful shots of liquor in test tubes. That legendary summer, a friend and I had the time of our lives conquering New York, which included repeated karaoke efforts on my part (and colorful shots, for that matter). One of the regulars was a very thin and frail black man with a long, neat ponytail in an effortless slick-back. He had a standing appointment at the end of every weekly karaoke night to sing “Joyful, Joyful,” and always brought the house down. The paradox in a traditional religious hymn serving as standard fare in such a bar, especially performed by such a sullen man, was not lost on my friend, who once remarked “Wow, this is obviously a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.” Brilliant . . . just like director Bill Duke’s r&b/hip-hoppy dance revival of the classic itself.
Just jammin’, is what that was.
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