Goldberg plays Deloris, a Reno lounge singer who witnesses a murder by her mobster boyfriend Vince (Harvey Keitel) and ends up on the lam. The detective trying to bust Vince, played by Bill Nunn, pops Deloris into a San Francisco convent for safekeeping, where the one-time Catholic school girl promptly outrages the mother superior (Maggie Smith).

Goldberg plays Deloris, a Reno lounge singer who witnesses a murder by her mobster boyfriend Vince (Harvey Keitel) and ends up on the lam. The detective trying to bust Vince, played by Bill Nunn, pops Deloris into a San Francisco convent for safekeeping, where the one-time Catholic school girl promptly outrages the mother superior (Maggie Smith).

Deloris and the movie find their respective callings about halfway in when she’s asked to take over the convent’s dreadful choir, introducing ’60s rock to the nuns through adapted renditions of “My Guy” (becoming “My God”) and songs like “I Will Follow Him,” which takes on a new and hilarious meaning.

It’s a divine concept, and after a weak start director Emile Ardolino (“Dirty Dancing,””Three Men and a Little Lady”) milks it for all the laughs it’s worth, while deriving requisite warmth from solid performances by Goldberg and Smith.

The comic element gets a major boost, meanwhile, from supporting players, particularly Kathy Najimy’s ebullient Sister Mary Patrick and dour Mary Wickes as the former choir-master.

Ardolino does fall into certain traps of the genre, among them the annoying habit of telling big chunks of story through long musical montages, and Keitel and his henchmen are too cartoonish to be truly menacing.

In a more provocative sense, the film touches on but basically steers away from addressing how the Church can be more relevant in modern society, as well as its inner conflict over adapting to face current realities–a point made subtly by Deloris’ grappling with the mother superior over styles of music.

Still, few summer filmgoers will be bothered by those flat notes, and as a “PG”-rated comedy Goldberg’s cleaned-up act should pick up additional coin as one to which parents can bring their kids.

Technical credits are highlighted by Lester Wilson’s staging on the numbers and Marc Shaiman’s clever musical adaptations. Producer designer Jackson DeGovia also does a fine job of turning the dreary church into a glitzy main room as the chorus starts filling up benches.

“Sister Act” may be a benchmark for Goldberg, as well, and for other summer comedies, a tough act to follow.

Sister Act

(Comedy--Color)

Production

A Buena Vista Pictures release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with Touchwood Pacific Partners I of a Scott Rudin production. Produced by Teri Schwartz. Executive producer, Rudin. Coproducer, Mario Iscovich. Directed by Emile Ardolino. Screenplay, Joseph Howard. Camera (Technicolor color), Adam Greenberg; editor, Richard Halsey; music, Marc Shaiman; production design, Jackson DeGovia; assistant art director, Eve Cauley; set decoration, Thomas L. Roysden; set design, Robert M. Beall, Ann Harris; costume design, Molly Maginnis; sound (Dolby), Darin Knight; associate producer, Cindy Gilmore; assistant director, Joe Camp III; musical numbers staged by Lester Wilson; casting, Judy Taylor, Lynda Gordon, Johnson-Liff & Zerman. Reviewed at the AMC Century 14 Theater, Los Angeles, May 16, 1992. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 100 min. Deloris ... Whoopi Goldberg Mother Superior ... Maggie Smith Mary Patrick ... Kathy Najimy Mary Robert ... Wendy Makkena Mary Lazarus ... Mary Wickes Vince LaRocca ... Harvey Keitel Eddie Souther ... Bill Nunn Joey ... Robert Miranda Willy ... Richard Portnow Amid the summer blockbusters there's usually room for one sleeper comedy hit, and this could be it. Blessed with the from-on-high concept of Whoopi Goldberg bringing rock 'n' roll to a nuns' chorus, this infectious little throwaway should strike a responsive chord with sequel-weary audiences and very well prove habit-forming. All the more wonder that Goldberg has reportedly opted not to promote the film, originally seen as a vehicle for Bette Midler, which should provide her with a successful solo follow-up to "Ghost." While far from perfect, audiences will likely overlook this act's numerous shortcomings due to the warm-hearted story and engaging premise.
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