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This adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling novel affords Queen Latifah and Alicia Keys good roles, but thanks to Gina Prince-Blythewood's treacly screenplay and plodding direction, the movie quickly congeals into a mess of sentimental cliches. Set in South Carolina in 1964, it stars the annoyingly precocious Dakota Fanning as a spunky teen grieving for her dead mother; after fleeing her abusive father (a mumbling Paul Bettany), she's taken in by the rural black family of beekeepers that once sheltered her mom. Latifah projects authority and warmth as the oldest sister, and Keys strikes sparks as the middle sister, an outspoken civil rights activist, but Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) is too mannered as the feeble youngest sibling. Jennifer Hudson adds some grit to a project that might have worked better as a Hallmark TV special. PG-13, 110 min.

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