Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit is commonly acknowledged not to have the same emotional and attentional impact as the first Sister Act movie, though it does feature some of the same Catholic Movie Cliches: viz; Fake Nun Passes Herself/himself Off As Genuine Article By Putting On Traditional Habit; Fake Nun/priest(s) Get Noticed For Spiritual Enlightenment And/or Service To The Church In Spite of Not Knowing Basics; Novice/Postulant Nun Is A Young Woman Who Is Wide-eyed, Optimistic, Naiive, And Plays The Guitar; and last but not least, these are all Singing Nuns.
The featured infighting in the Catholic hierarchy portrayed (perhaps misleadingly depicted in this film as a conflict between “money men” and the sentimental/spiritual individuals in the local Catholic administrative structure) as well as the spectre of an impending parish and/or parochial school closure resonates as true-to-life for American Catholics in the 1990s (at least those within the orbit of the NYC Archdiocese), but the fact that the older nuns teaching in the parish school did not know that the school had won choir competitions in the past until they came across some old choir trophies while dusting seems a little far-fetched. A couple of slapstick portrayals of nuns and religious brothers as risk-taking drivers provide comedic relief.
While the premise of an outsider who comes into the situation cold and saves the day (or in this case, the school, by training the students in an original performance which wins the choir competition) is perhaps a required suspension of disbelief that _makes_ the movie, so are the early-career performances of Lauryn Hill for which the parish school choir scenario is an excuse for her to sing spirituals and hymns in a religious context and perform this role marvelously. While His Eye Is On The Sparrow is a very nice-sounding spiritual, I doubt the former Cardinal Ratzinger approved it for liturgical use in the Catholic Church at the time. Perhaps this is why it was performed by Hill and one other student in an otherwise empty church building. Though surrounded by stained-glass windows and votive candles, they are not singing this song at Mass.
The idea that Sister Mary Clarence, a.k.a. lapsed Catholic lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier, as an outsider with good intentions, injects new life as well as financial and social salvation into a moribund church and community, is to the regret of many parishes similar to that portrayed in the movie, wishful thinking. To have similar community engagement and back from the brink scenarios in the Catholic church and to reach the “at-risk” population of urban youth is a desiderata which has not been fulfilled and may never truly be fulfilled by the Catholic church in our day, though I have heard from one lay choir director who told me that the musical performances in the first Sister Act movie inspired her to give her childrens’ choir the opportunity to perform these songs, and hopefully be reached by the same spirit that inspired Sr. Mary Clarence to subtly twist the lyrics to secular songs to reflect spiritual consciousness and loyalty to God.
The late Mary Wikes, who played Sister Mary Lazarus in both Sister Act and Sister Act 2 – Back in the Habit, also portrayed Marie Murkin in the television movie and series adaptations of Father Dowling Mysteries in addition to many other roles in a long and varied career on stage, screen, and television.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply