Movie review of “Mr. Church”: This tear-jerker stars Eddie Murphy as a man of many talents taking care of and teaching life lessons to a young girl and her dying mother. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“Mama, wake up! There’s a black man in the kitchen cooking eggs.”
Thus is the lead character introduced in “Mr. Church” by a wide-eyed 10-year-old white girl.
Impressively played with quiet gravity by Eddie Murphy, Mr. Church, as he’s always referred to, is a man of many talents: pianist, painter, lover of literature and oh, as mentioned, cook — of the gourmet variety. And rather a mystery, being very closemouthed about his private life.
Movie Review ★★
‘Mr. Church,’ with Eddie Murphy, Britt Robertson, Natascha McElhone, Natalie Coughlin. Directed by Bruce Beresford, from a screenplay by Susan McMartin. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements. Several theaters.
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More significantly, he’s a soft-spoken wise counselor, a trusted confidant and a sensitive caregiver, providing succor and sustenance to the girl Charlotte (played by Natalie Coughlin as a young kid and Britt Robertson as a teen) and her lovely mother who is dying of cancer (Natascha McElhone). In short, he fits to a T what Spike Lee termed “the Magical Negro”: a preternaturally wise and forbearing black man who imparts important life lessons to the story’s white characters. The picture is very much in the tradition of movies like “Driving Miss Daisy.” And wouldn’t you know it? Its director, Bruce Beresford, also directed “Daisy.”
Mr. Church comes into the little family’s lives as a kind of bequest from the mother’s dead lover, hired to care for the pair for the six months the mother is expected to live.
“Mr. Church” is a straight-up tear-jerker, bookended by episodes of not one but two fatal diseases and other vicissitudes, particularly pertaining to the travails of single motherhood. The characters have few outside connections — no family members appear and few friends — and so the whole thing seems to take place within a tightly circumscribed bubble.
Get out your handkerchiefs, but don’t expect to believe a minute of this vastly improbable tale.