Chloe Bailey Effortlessly Carries Sentimental, Uneven Musical

Apr 6, 2023

Praise This is the latest project from Will Packer’s Will Packer Productions and Tim Story’s The Story Company. Directed and co-written by Tina Gordon, this original musical comedy follows a struggling Praise Team that finds its shining light of hope in the wayward wannabe pop star Sam, played by real-life singer Chloe Bailey. Faith and a coming-of-age story come together in a heartwarming, sometimes funny but underwhelming musical comedy that arrives on Peacock in time for Easter.

After acting up and getting arrested in LA, Sam, an aspiring singer and music producer, gets sent to live with her Uncle Larry (Kendrick Cross) in Atlanta. Sam’s nightmare is her cousin Jess’ (Anjelika Washington) dream come true, as the upbeat, quirky church girl has always wanted a sister. Jess is part of a struggling Praise Team for The Oil Factory, the church run by the reformed PG (Tristan Mack Wilds). With limited options for Sam to grow her musical career, she continues to pursue opportunities to get noticed as a singer, which includes breaking into a house party by Ty, a rising Atlanta star played by rapper-singer Quavo. When things go wrong, Sam is forced to join Jess on the Praise Team, and surprisingly this unlocks something within Sam.

Chloe Bailey in Praise This

For the most part, Praise This is a competently made film that perfectly fits into the slew of films from Packer and Story that celebrate and acknowledge different facets of the Black American experience. The story is somewhat layered with commentary on the superficiality of commercially viable churches, the stigma against reformed souls and the power of humility and redemption. Ultimately, the film is a musical comedy with a sufficient number of musical acts, but it needed more effective comedy.

Gordon’s directing is relatively low-key and sturdy; there are no massive leaps in the innovation or creativity from her last feature Little. What the film manages to excel at is having personable and vibrant performances from Bailey and a sweet message about the power of faith. While the film is essentially just okay, with minimal jokes that actually land and the strength of its charismatic cast carrying the sentimental script, the film is sadly underwhelming. The writing is bland, with the only bright spots being the poignant moments around faith and grief. The comedy is lacking, and the character work is nonexistent. Sam, for the most part, is the only character with any substance, and even that is primarily supplied by Bailey’s intuitive performance. Praise This benefits from its messaging but fails to incorporate the cast as effectively as it could have.

Chloe Bailey excels here in a role that mostly requires her to be charismatic and expressive. Anjelika Washington is appropriately funny, providing the most genuine laughs for this supposed comedy. Everyone else does what they can, but only a few are given a moment to shine. Praise This is similar to another Universal Pictures film, Pitch Perfect, yet it is remarkably inferior due to its inability to utilize the ensemble cast. Except for Washington, the Praise Team is just a collection of individuals who happen to sing together. They don’t feel like a team, and hardly any work is done to create interesting dynamics and a team worth rooting for. It’s a waste, considering the promise of the cast’s talent.

Praise This is wildly uneven but not entirely unenjoyable. There is enough here that makes the film perfectly fine. It is formulaic, but it’s earnestness and impactful narrative will touch many. With faith and community being recognizable pillars, there is no doubt that Praise This will find its audience, and they will enjoy it for its familiarity and sincerity. As a piece of cinematic work, however, it’s lacking, though the elements are present for an entertaining spectacle. Live-action musical comedies are not overly popular at the moment, and it is unfortunate when one with great potential comes around and doesn’t stick the landing.

That said, the film’s highest points are when Bailey can unleash and show off her dynamic and emotive voice. Bailey’s real-life inventiveness and reputation for being a musical genius are on full display, and Sam is an effective avatar for the singer. Praise This is proof of Bailey’s capabilities as a leading lady and an excellent argument for why she should not be underestimated. Praise This has a lot going for it. And while it’s far from perfect, it’s an enjoyable film is worth checking out.

Praise This begins streaming on Peacock Friday, April 7. It is 112 minutes long and not yet rated.

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