A NEW YORK REVIEW
NEW YORK (CNN) -- As the holiday season gets under way once again, a few Hollywood producers are harping on the angel theme. Take "The Preacher's Wife" starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. "Preacher's" angel is a dancing one; Washington had to learn how to move for the role. He demonstrated his dancing for a CNN camera crew, prompting a comment from CNN's Michael Okwu: "What was up with that?" "You mean why'd I dance? or why'd I dance so bad?" Washington retorted. The actor himself characterized his dancing as "more and more bizarre" with every take.
"Basically, I'm a sucker for a laugh so I started building on it and building on it, and trying to squeeze -- I mean, I only had 30 seconds to dance, and I do about nine different dances," he said, demonstrating his James Brown moves, a little disco and some Popeye. "I was like, what the heck are you doing?" co-star Whitney Houston said.
What Washington is doing is wooing Whitney, although inadvertently. In the movie, Washington's character, Dudley the angel, is sent from heaven to help the good Rev. Henry Biggs, played by Tony-award nominee Courtney B. Vance. Biggs is losing his faith in spiritual power, and his marriage to his wife Julia, played by Houston, is on the skids. So, he asks God for help. God sends Dudley, the well-groomed Cupid, to repair things. His lengthy absence from the material world has made him easily impressed by little things -- like the smell of soap. And his awkwardness eventually makes it obvious to many of the characters that there is an angel in their midst. But ultimately, the stars say, the film not just a comedy. It is a visual testament of faith, "and hope," Houston said. "Belief and giving back to the community. Never abandoning the community, but replenishing it."
Penny Marshall's latest directing stint is a modern remake of the 1947 film "The Bishop's Wife," a movie she describes as "happy, singing, Christmas, go see it." "Singing" and "Christmas" could also describe her remake, a Yuletide celebration of gospel singing, Whitney Houston style. Houston readily admits she drew from her own life to play the role of the gospel singer. "Church and the gospel and the love of God for me" helped the role, she said. "If I closed my eyes, I would think I was back in church again when I was a child." Washington admitted that -- unlike his dancing -- there's nothing strange about Houston's legendary voice. Working with her was good, he joked, "once I got her to understand how to sing."