Sequels are rarely as good as the original film that spawned them. A great example of that would be the recent release of Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde. Maybe I just expect too much. Movies are like ice cream...when they're really good, I don't want to stop with just one taste. I want to see these characters again and find out what's happened to them.
This is the case with Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993). And that's because I enjoyed the original, called simply Sister Act (1992) so much. In it, a group of nuns give asylum to a lounge singer that is on the run from some really bad guys. It was a wonderful, funny, touching story that ended with a special bond that had been formed between them all. A sequel was inevitable with the success of the first film.
In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit the nuns find themselves facing another dilemma and call on their old friend to help out. They are all teaching at a local school, the St. Francis Academy, which is experiencing some difficulties. The school is having financial problems and the students are uninspired and bored. ....Cue the theme to Mighty Mouse....watch as Sister Mary Clarence flies in to the rescue.....Here she comes to save the day!!!
Whoopi Goldberg is Deloris Van Cartier, a nightclub performer. She once again dons a Nuns' habit to go undercover as Sister Mary Clarence, the new music teacher. I really can't imagine anyone else playing this role and doing it so well. She uses those eyes and that smile of hers to her best advantage here. And she knows how to make that habit shake and groove as she's leading the choir. To me, one of the things that make both of the Sister Act films so enjoyable is the interaction between Whoopi and the other women who played the nuns.
Kathy Najimy again plays the role of Sister Mary Patrick, with those beautiful sparkling eyes and her bubbly, oh-so-optimistic attitude. Here, in Sister Act 2 she is the Sex Ed teacher and in the one scene that is shown of her class, she tells them that the subject for the day is "promiscuity", which she has to repeat with a giggle. When a student asks what in the world would a nun know about sex, she replies "You don't have to bite the donut to know it's sweet".
Wendy Makkena is the young, petite Sister Mary Robert once again. The late Mary Wickes is the older, wise-cracking, really bad driver, Sister Mary Lazarus and the great Maggie Smith is the Mother Superior.
The special bond of friendship that formed between these women in the original film was still apparent in this sequel, but it wasn't nearly as prevalent. They will only do one musical number together again (the Temptations Ball of Confusion), but it pales in comparison to the ones that they performed in the first film. Oh, wait...they also do Martha and the Vandels' Dancin In the Streets, but that's really more Whoopi performing alone, than as a group effort.
In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit the focus is on the students that Sister Mary Clarence has been sent to "straighten out". Now these kids aren't the really dangerous kind like the ones you'll see in films such as The Principal or Dangerous Minds. There aren't any guns or knives to be seen here. These students are just bored and tend to get a bit mischievous.
The "Leader of the Pack" is Rita Louise Watson, played by Lauryn Hill. This young lady is very pretty and, boy, can she sing. Sad to say, the writers for this character seem to go off in all directions. She began as a tough, strong, confident young woman and ended up looking like a sniveling little girl. It was rather disappointing to see the typical storyline of kid-runs-off, Mom-follows, they-hug-and-live-happily-ever-after scenario.
Ryan Toby plays Westley Glen James, who prefers to be called Ahmal. This was the most interesting character of all the students. The funny thing that I noticed is that it must be quite difficult for a great singer to try to sound bad. This kid can really belt it out...fantastic voice. But of course, he had to "be taught" to sound good. The scenes where he is "learning" are so very obviously strained and uncomfortable. Once he's lettin' it rip, he looks completely different, very confident and self-assured. When he hit the high note in "Oh Happy Day" it gave me shivers....this kid has got some talent.
Some of the rest of the students include the popular Jennifer Love Hewitt as Margaret, Ron Johnson as Sketch, Devin Kamin as Frank-Kaaa, and Alanna Ubach as Maria. And an interesting little bit of trivia for you....Whoopis' own daughter, Alex Martin, can be seen here as one of the students.
Barnard Hughes is Father Maurice, who heads up the St. Francis Academy. The scene in which he is welcoming Sister Mary Clarence as a teacher is really pretty cute. She, of course, doesn't know the proper terminologies that the nuns use and refers to the Father as "Your Royal Pappyness".
Michael Jeter plays Father Ignatius. He's his usual nervous, jittery self (Lordy, he makes me think of Barney Fife sometimes). Brad Sullivan is Father Thomas, scowling and looking as mean as ever. James Coburn plays Mr. Crisp, the "bad guy" in the movie that wants to turn the school into a parking lot so that he can retire. And I guess I should mention that Robert Pastorelli appears very briefly at the beginning of the film as Deloris' agent. Actually, none of the gentlemen appear to any great extent. They seem to be more just fillers to round out the story.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit runs for 107 minutes and was directed by Bill Duke. He is credited with quite a few impressive television series (Hill Street Blues, Fame, Miami Vice), but most notable to me personally is the inclusion of Knots Landing, one of my favorites. Guess that makes the guy pretty okay in my book!
I'm going the safe route here with 3 stars. The music is so wonderful....never thought I'd hear "Joyful, Joyful" done so upbeat, with parts in rap, and wind up sounding so good. It was smart that the Director had the song performed in its' traditional way by your rather normal choir first, for anyone that was not familiar with the song (hey, it's possible that someone never heard it before...highly unlikely, but possible!). That tempted me to push this up to 4 stars. But there are a lot of cliches to be found in Sister Act 2 and quite a bit of stereotyping, which makes me want to drown it with a 2. The best thing, then, is to just round this Baby out and go right up the middle. Although it doesn't hold the same charm as the original, it's still a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
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