A Schwing and a Prayer

Much of the film's charm is no doubt attributable to Myers's obvious enjoyment of the making of the film. Whether he and Carvey are body surfing a sea of hands from the back of a concert hall to the stage during an Aerosmith show, or just broadcasting their cable program and needling each other, Myers's enthusiasm is contagious. He's clearly having a great time, and the spirit is contagious.

Sister Act 2 is another story. If Mike Myers looks like he's having the time of his life doing the Wayne redux, Whoopi Goldberg stumbles blindly through her film like she still can't believe anybody was desperate enough to sit through the original Sister Act. Except for the inspired opening production number that establishes that Goldberg's character has made the leap from second-rate lounge singer to second-rate Vegas headliner, the eyebrowless actress appears bewildered throughout.

The good sisters of St. Catherine's are helping run an inner-city school full of rowdy teenagers that just happens to be the alma mater of their streetwise friend and former pseudo-nun Deloris Van Cartier (a.k.a. Sister Mary Clarence), played by Goldberg. Things aren't looking good A the kids are out of control, and mean old administrator Mr. Crisp, played by a paunchy, puffy James Coburn, wants to close the school. Naturally the sisters prevail upon their sequined friend, who goes undercover as a nun to straighten things out.

She inherits a troublesome music class that the filmmakers have loaded with enough talented young people to give New York's famed High School of the Performing Arts a run for its money. These kids can outsing Mariah Carey and outdance Michael Jackson, but the filmmakers posit them as just your average class of high-spirited teens. Like she did with the nuns in the original Sister Act, Whoopi transforms the supposedly ragtag bunch into a cohesive choir. Along the way she overcomes their hostility, gains their acceptance, and teaches them respect with an ease not seen since Gabe Kaplan won over Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back, Kotter. Under her tutelage they go on to win a state choir competition, learn valuable life lessons along the way, and save their school (for Sister Act 3?). To Sir, With Love has more relevance.

You don't expect much from hack authors James Orr and Jim Cruickshank, perpetrators of such crimes against humanity as Tough Guys and Three Men and a Baby, and that's what you get A not much. Their recycling of the "let's put on a show" riff is unimaginative even by their own sunken standards. And they saddle Goldberg with material not even a real-life Vegas lounge act would attempt to get away with. The sister can act -- The Color Purple proves it -- but as it has so many times in Goldberg's brief screen career, a shoddy script dulls her edge. Michael Jeter and Barnard Hughes are likewise wasted here in supporting roles that serve no apparent purpose other than to bloat the cast payroll. And speaking of bloat, James Coburn looks terrible and acts worse. He should fire his agent for letting him do this film.

Sister Act 2 is the worst kind of sequel, the kind where you're supposed to titter gleefully each time a cast member from the original movie appears, regardless of how gratuitous their inclusion in the half-baked "story." The kids are all ringers, Whoopi coasts, the gags fall flat, and the whole project reeks of quick-buck fever. Even a nun would have trouble saying something nice about that.


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