In the gospel musical-comedy The Fighting Temptations, Cuba Gooding Jr. plays a reluctant choir director. When he inevitably rises to the task, though, he doesn't really direct the choir so much as spazz along in its wake, jumping and shouting and waving his arms like he's accepting a whole case of Best Supporting Actor Oscars. Gooding, we see in some credit cookies, can be an exuberant, even dexterous dancer. But we don't see that in the movie; we only see Cuba the strained comedian, grasping for soul. The movie's poster advises "Don't fight the feeling!" -- and I couldn't: I couldn't fend off the feeling that Gooding is the weakest link in his own vehicle. Orlando Jones, on the other hand, has yet to receive an Oscar, but I couldn't help but think the movie would've been significantly better with him in the choir-director role.
What happened to Cuba Gooding Jr., anyway? Everyone knows his career has taken a rather, shall we say, broad turn after his Jerry Maguire Oscar. But it didn't happen immediately. His roles in As Good As It Gets and What Dreams May Come weren't showstoppers, but you can see why he took them, working as he did with other talented actors and filmmakers. He did a movie with De Niro, too, remember? But what really sticks in the memory is a string of recent, bottom-drawer comedies: Rat Race, Snow Dogs, Boat Trip. Listen to how those names form an odd aural trilogy of implied crappiness. Post-Temptations, he will play a mentally challenged fellow in Radio. I can't help but think of Eddie Murphy's line in Bowfinger: "Find me a part as a retarded slave, then I'll get my Oscar."
Continue reading: The Fighting Temptations Review