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SISTER ACT. Directed by Emile Ardolino; written by Joseph Howard; produced by Teri Schwartz for Hollywood Pictures. Starring Whoopi Goldberg. Rated PG.


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If you just hear what this movie is about, you might well wonder why it's proven so popular. The combination of "Witness for the Prosecution" and "Hey, Let's Put on a Show!"—set in a convent, no less—doesn't sound too promising.

But once you see it, you'll understand its popularity instantly. It's a real feel-good movie, the likes of which are pretty rare these days.

Sure, it's hokey and asks for a hefty suspension of disbelief. But Goldberg, and her supporting cast, have enough charm and personality to make realism irrelevant.

Deloris (Goldberg) is a second-rate Las Vegas singer specializing in a girl-group repertoire of oldies. In a masterpiece of bad timing, she witnesses a murder and has to go into hiding until the feds can put away the bad guy. Who happens to be her boyfriend, a sleazy mobster who is played by an expert in such roles, Harvey Keitel.

What better place to hide a female lounge lizard than in a struggling urban convent? And what better job to give her there than leading the choir?

The changes Deloris makes in the choirloft are too amazing to be believed. But the process is so funny, the nuns so appealing, and the music that eventually comes out of this new girl-group is so infectious that only a complete curmudgeon could find fault.

Goldberg's character here is actually much more subdued than usual, and she shares the comic spotlight generously with several of her fellow sisters. Kathy Najimy and Wendy Makkena are particularly fun to watch.

Few of Goldberg's movies have been appropriate family fare, and it's a shame, because when the kids do get to see her, they love her. Sister Act is pure PG, in spite of its couple of sexual references and a little offscreen violence.

And I guarantee the whole family will leave the theater smiling, and probably singing, too.

June 22, 1992

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