On paper this one looked like it should work. We have Lynn Whitfield in a starring role playing opposite the ridiculously perfect songstress Ciara, then you toss in some Hill Harper, Patti LaBelle, the legendary Ben Vereen and my main man Billy Zane for support… it’s looking good. Plus the movie was directed by one Jeff Clanagan whose film ‘Kings of the Evening’ we just saw and enjoyed mightily. On paper, ‘Mama, I Want to Sing’ should be a hands down winner. I hate to use a sports metaphor but… this is why they play the game.
We tune in on little Doris, who looks like she should grow up to look more like Sade than Ciara, learning her craft besides her father Reverend Winter (Marvin Winans). Now it’s the big day for Doris’ big solo and Mrs. Winter (Whitfield) asks her husband with serious concern ‘Should you be preaching today’. I should let you know at this point my lovely brides bursts out laughing which causes our son some concern. He didn’t see what was so funny about that little line. I had to inform the boy that even though it sounded like she said ‘Should you be preaching today’, she actually said ‘Make sure you drop dead in the middle of your sermon, dear’. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Pastor Winter tragically drops dead in the middle of his sermon.
A few years pass and Doris (Ciara) has kind of pushed the whole church singing thing to the side, working in nightclubs with her Aunt Carrie (Patti LaBelle) which doesn’t make her mother, now the good Dr. Rev. Lillian Winter, very happy. Whatever old lady, it’s time for a girl to become a star.
A few years pass and Doris isn’t a star yet but she does have a faithful manager in Jeff (Hill Harper) and now she has caught the attention some superstar music producer (Billy Zane) and after some tweaking of her sound and a quick name change from Doris to the much more appropriately exotic Amara… A Star is Born.
A few years pass… Hey man, a few years pass, what do you want me to do about it? But a few years pass and Amara is shaking that little booty of hers to the tune of sold out concerts and massive sales of hit records. Her mother is no slouch in the success
as her ministry is almost as famous and she has just landed a plum gig on some Faith network with the opportunity to get syndicated and go global. Of course a lot of the things the good Doctor Reverend preaches against are represented by her baby girl every night, which makes neither woman very happy with each other, but what are you gonna do? In between the Pop Star and the Preacher is baby brother Luke (Kevin Phillips), a professional photographer who handles duties for both mother and sister, with his support coming mainly from his grandfather Horace (Ben Vereen) who does what he can to mediate.
Sadly, Nick is feeling neglected and doesn’t think either his mother or his sister take him very seriously so now it’s off to Baghdad to make that leap from studio fashion photographer to front line war photo journalist. I imagine this isn’t an easy transition. Without giving anything away just know that mother and daughter are going to have to put their differences aside and come together in their time of need.
Long delayed, three years actually, for what is reported to be for a number of reasons ‘Mama I Want to Sing’ finally makes its way to DVD via Codeblack Entertainment. After watching this movie you can see why there was some hesitation in releasing it to an unsuspecting public, though I can safely say I have seen much worse released straight to DVD. This one, however, I expected to be better.
It’s odd that the thing that appears to be missing from this movie with a backdrop of music would be a rhythm, a beat or a palpable pulse. Even from the opening frames ‘Mama, I Want to Sing’ lurches forward from scene to scene and also doesn’t take the time to adequately develop any its characters or expand on its stock predictable storyline. One minute Doris is a little girl playing piano with her old man, the next minute she's Amara the superstar. Worst still was the presentation of the good Doctor Reverend who went from ordinary housewife to T.D. Jakes faster than Usain Bolt can run 200 meters, with nothing to bridge this transformation. The entire exercise feels like a collection of disconnected scenes strung together to make a semi-coherent movie.
Because of how choppy everything felt I also can’t really tell you what this movie is supposed to be about. The prodigal daughter coming home? Not really considering Amara seems fine with being booty shaking pop star. The righteous mother drifting away from the Word? I guess, but that plot point took up all of two sentences in this movie. In splitting time equally between Ciara and Lynn Whitfield’s characters, the movie ultimately focuses on nothing. Plus there wasn’t enough singing in this movie called ‘Mama, I Want to Sing’.
The performances were decent enough, considering what the actors were given to work with, though Ciara, as pretty as she is, isn’t much of an actress. But then that was three years ago so I’m sure she’s much better now.
‘Mama I Want to Sing’ was very disappointing when you add it all up. It’s clear that something went awfully wrong during the production of this movie considering the talent in front of and behind the camera. This really should’ve been much better.