an irresistible all-singing, all-sobbing weepie with sequins

This new musical version of The Color Purple is a deeply moving film, though with the proviso that it moves you in the same sort of way a JCB moves 15 tonnes of builders’ waste.

Beep…beep…beep…watch your backs, got a big load of pathos coming through…here comes the poignancy…OK, stand back everyone…beep, beep, KERR-ASH. Alright guv, there’s yer first-act tragic finale. Where do you want the rest of it?

Samuel Bazawule’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel – adapted in turn for the screen from the 2005 musical stage show – is not subtle. In fact it takes the picturesque good taste of Steven Spielberg’s version, which made a star of Whoopi Goldberg back in 1985, and immediately boots it into the creek. This is an all-singing, all-sobbing weepie with sequins, featuring comedy, uproarious choreography, and a suite of soul R&B and gospel numbers that will have you bopping along in your seat.

It might sound odd to describe a film about black women’s hardscrabble lives in the early 20th century American south as a hoot – except Bazawule and his cast plainly wants us to feel that way, as they wring out every scene, no matter how grim, for all the entertainment it can yield. In the opening number, young Celie Harris (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi) emerges onto the street pregnant with her abusive father’s child, and the dancing townsfolk behind her chorus: “Ooh, the good Lord works in mysterious ways!” Ooh, you can say that again. Yet like Oh, Streetcar!, the (fictional) musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire that once featured on The Simpsons, everything that really shouldn’t work here really does.

As an adult, Celie is played with impressively egoless wallop by the American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, while fine supporting turns come from Danielle Brooks as her redoubtable friend Sofia, Colman Domingo as her abusive husband Mister, and Taraji P Henson as the carousing lounge singer Shug Avery, who allows Celie to glimpse the world beyond her dusty Georgian township.

Elsewhere, The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey and the singer Ciara split the role of Nettie, Celie’s sister, whose letters from Africa are intercepted by the wicked Mister, but which later allow Celie to poignantly connect with her family and wider heritage. Cheesy? Not at all. Bazawule’s film is all pudding, thickly topped with (and seemingly lit through) pure golden Tate & Lyle, and I snaffled up every last sticky crumb of it.

In cinemas now

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