The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

preachers wife poster 1996 movie whitney houston denzel washington
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 5/10

Still a good story

Feels like a better than average TV movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Preacher’s Wife

Studio:  Touchstone/The Samuel Goldwyn Company/Mundy Lane Entertainment

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama/Romance/Family/Musical/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 13, 1996

MPAA Rating:  PG

preachers wife whitney houston singing choir

All this singing, I could use a little “pick-me-up”

Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance) has problems.  His church is failing, his wife Julia (Whitney Houston) seems to be falling out of love with him, and his son Jeremiah (Justin Pierre Edmund) has just lost his best friend who was taken by social services.  Reverend Biggs asks for help and gets it in the form of an angel named Dudley (Denzel Washington), but Dudley might not be the help Biggs wants. Now, Dudley is involved in his life, and Biggs can’t believe he’s really an angel…plus, an industrialist named Joe Hamilton (Gregory Hines) is trying to buy him for a new church.  Dudley also has a problem…he’s falling in love with life and Biggs’ wife.

Directed by Penny Marshall, The Preacher’s Wife is an adaptation of Robert Nathan 1928 novel The Bishop’s Wife which was previously made into the Cary Grant-David Niven 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife.  The movie did well at the box office and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music and the album became the one of the best selling gospel album of all time.

preachers wife ice skating whitney houston denzel washington

Skating is fun…even if that girl is creeping in the background

The Bishop’s Wife is an odd story and the movie adaptation is an odd movie.  The idea of an angel visiting and helping isn’t that odd.   It’s a Wonderful LifeHighway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel were series based on this concept, and angel and the holidays go hand-in-hand…in that case The Preacher’s Wife makes sense.

The movie is a pretty straight forward adaption (or modern look) at the original film and story.  The problems are all a bit different, but the themes and ideas are the same.  The role of the family friend was toned down (this time played by Lionel Richie), but the script is pretty clever and fun despite being derivative.  It has been enough time from the original that it still has a fresh feel as a story idea.

preachers wife ending whitney houston courtney b vance jenifer lewis justin pierre edmund

Happy holidays! Dudley is dead to us!

The acting is fairly strong.  Denzel is a much more unsure angel than Cary Grant’s Dudley.  He isn’t sure where to go, what to do, and is much more enamored by the idea that he is getting a second chance at life.  Vance plays the frustrated preacher well, and Whitney Houston tries to eat up her scenes, but honestly, The Preacher’s Wife doesn’t have that big of a role…the movie is more about the dynamic between Dudley and Biggs and that does work.

The Preacher’s Wife is tolerable.  It isn’t great, it isn’t awful.  It feels a bit like a better holiday TV movie than a major motion picture, and Penny Marshall directs it that way…nothing will surprise you.  It is kind of fun to watch Whitney Houston who admitted that she was doing drugs daily by this point and knowing the preacher’s wife is totally coked up adds another dimension to an otherwise average film.

Related Links:

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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