Reverend Mother: Girl groups? Boogie woogie on the piano? What were you thinking?
Two films that detail the hip Whoopi Goldberg as Reno lounge singer Delores Van Cartier who hides at a Convent and helps the other nuns out by introducing "heathen" ideals with a sense of joy and excitement instead of solemnity in their music.
In the first Sister Act Delores witnesses her Mafioso boyfriend commit a murder. She is entered into Witness Protection and forcibly inducted into an abbey, where the only person who knows "Sister Mary Clarence" is in witness protection is Mother Superior. Delores has to follow the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, hard work and getting up at 5 AM. Despite her dire situation, and her thought patterns weren't especially holy before, she finds ways to rebel and is in a constant struggle against Mother Superior.
In a last ditch effort to get her to truly act like a nun, she is also inducted into the abbey choir, where situations put her in a position to straighten it up. After getting them to actually sing in tune, she decides to make her own improvements by combining spirituals and R&B...
Hilarity Ensues... with a tambourine.
A very popular film, arguably Whoopi Goldberg's best role ever. Despite the Mafia storyline, the real story comes from how the amazing music from the choir restores church attendance and that music is often the one thing that can bring people together. In 2006, the movie was made into a stage musical, with songs by Alan Menkin.
In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Delores returns to visit her old friends at the convent and finds that the community school they've been teaching at is slowly going under. Delores agrees to return as Sister Mary Clarence and teach the music class to a large group of very disinterested teenagers (led by a young Lauryn Hill). After the requisite pranks being pulled on her, she strikes back in her own way and humbles the kids so that she can work with them.
Finding out about a state choir contest and that the kids have a knack for harmonizing, she decides to shape up the kids by forming a choir and integrating it into the music they like... her specialty.
The movie certainly has its moments, although hampered by a fairly weak method of getting Delores back.
- Better Than Sex: After two of the singing nuns refer to singing as being better than more innocent things such as "springtime" and "ice cream," the "heathen" Fish Out of Water Dolores proclaims that singing is "better than sex," adding that it's what she has heard after a comedic Beat.
- Blithe Spirit: Inverted Trope. Only one character in the entire movie insists that things should be the way they are, but she is subverted by everyone else.
- Cool Old Lady: Sister Alma may be old and deaf, but she sure can tickle that ivory.
- Sister Mary Lazarus is pretty hip too. Despite her insistence upon how unhip she is.
- Curse Cut Short: Delores starts to say that the nuns' food taste like "shit"; Reverend Mother stops her by declaring a vow of silence.
- Education Mama: Initially, Rita's mom does not bless her choir participation.
- Fake Shemp: Pope John Paul II's face is never shown, even though he appears from behind (presumably because he's too famous to portray with an actor and they could never get the real Pope to make a cameo in this film).
- The Family for the Whole Family: Played straight with Joey and Willy; averted with Vince.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Mother: Rita's mother is determined to squash her dreams of becoming a singer. She won't even allow her to join the school choir as an extra curricular because she thinks she should be spending all her time studying to get into a good college.
- Notable for having a particularly weak and vague motivation, where all we get is that it has something to do with Rita's father. "You're not in there believing in yourself, are you?"
- Showgirl Out of Water
- Four-Temperament Ensemble:
Choleric: Delores/Sister Mary Clarence
- Full Name Ultimatum: Rita Louise Watson!
- Funny Background Event: After the rap segment in "Joyful Joyful", we see one of the boys run like a bunny to get back into his position in the choir.
- Fur and Loathing: Trying to return a fur coat that actually belongs to her boyfriend's wife, Dolores sees him killing a guy.
- Gender Blender Name: All of the nuns are named "Sister Mary X", with X being a male saint's name. The only two exceptions are Reverend Mother, who is called only by her title, and the nearly-deaf pianist Sister Alma.
- Groin Attack: Delores does this to get away from Vince's goons.
- Hidden Depths: The main theme of the movie.
- I Lied: Reverend Mother says this after the monsignor reminds her of her "vow of hospitality."
- Inner-City School: The main setting of the second movie, only with few Hispanic kids.
- Insistent Terminology: Delores is not a Las Vegas show girl. She is a headliner!
- Hollywood Nuns: All over this movie. And subverted in many ways.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Bless you.
- Lost in a Crowd: Those habits sure make everyone look identical.
- The Mafia
- Nails on a Blackboard: In the second film, this is how Delores gets the students' attention.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever the deal was with "Buckwheat Bertha"...
- Nuns Are Funny
- Parenthetical Swearing: When Vince is being taken away by the cops.
Dolores: I only have one thing to say to you, Vince.
- Perpetual Smiler: Sister Mary Patrick.
- Save Our Students: The sequel, where Whoopi's nun friends ask her to help turn around the choir of the Catholic school she attended as a child.
- Scream Discretion Shot: Whoopi, upon seeing herself in a habit for the first time. "I look like a penguin!"
- Setting Update: Inverted; the film was set in the then-present, but the musical goes back to 1978, so that Alan Menkin could do disco style songs.
- Shout-Out: Look close at the back of the church in the final song of the first movie and you'll see the Blues Brothers in a rather familiar stance...
- Shrinking Violet: Sister Mary Robert.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Pretty high on the idealistic end, as Diana Ross cover songs are all that's needed to turn a slum into a vibrant street corner. The Reverend Mother expresses cynicism that her nuns can handle the harsh realities of the street, but that's because she's the "Stop Having Fun!" Nun and her lesson is about how you can't shelter yourself away from the real world.
- Stuffy Brit: Reverend Mother (it is Maggie Smith, after all). However, this gradually modifies, especially in the sequel: "Go with God, Crispy."
- Take a Third Option: Regarding singing the traditional way as Reverend Mother wanted or the new popular way brought by Delores in the Pope visit. They ended up singing the first verse traditionally and then transitioning to the newer way. (The song in question, by the way, is the traditional hymn "Hail, Holy Queen".)
- Viva Reno
- Whoopi Epiphany Speech: The sequel is pretty much one long one of these. (Incidentally, they work.)
- Witness Protection: The reason Delores becomes Sister Mary Clarence in the first film. She's not actually a nun, she's just been placed in the convent by a police detective while awaiting Vince's prosecution.