After witnessing a murder by her dodgy ex (Harvey Keitel), life-loving singer Deloris (Whoopi Goldberg) is sent to witness relocation in the most unlikely place possible: a convent under stern watch of the Reverend Mother (Maggie Smith).
As she goes from the clutches of a conman to the cloisters of a convent she’s forced to trade guns for nuns, and swap casual violence for vows of silence as she adjusts to her new life. Using her musical skills she teaches the convent choir to really take it to church, and shares some of her Vatican-do attitude in the process. Think The Sound of Music meets Foxy Brown.
As plot contrivances go it’s not quite as out-there as Desperately Seeking Susan or Dave, although the idea that the Catholic Church would move someone into a parish to avoid legal trouble is rather far-fetched. The result is a story that’s not altogether unpredictable, but is a goldmine of comic potential.
It’s helped by the central performance of famously flatulent funnywoman Whoopi Goldberg who brings every gram of her EGOT-winning talent to the film. She’s surrounded by a roster of hilarious women who put the her into hymns, including deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus (Mary Wickes) and real-life Chicken Run character Sister Mary Patrick (Kathy Najimy).
While the scenes in which Deloris trains and performs with the choir form a relatively small portion of the film, they’re undoubtedly the highlights that will stay with you. It treads around its religious subject matter sensitively, remaining pretty secular in its outlook while avoiding causing offence to the world’s billion-or-so papists.
The result is an often funny, frequently uplifting film about the power of music to transform. By the time it’s done you’ll be stunned by the abundance of fun-loving nun fun created by the non-nun on the run, the sum of which is a second-to-none ton of fun. As the credits roll, the only thing you’ll want to confess is love for this film.