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It's been 27 years since Bruce Beresford directed "Driving Miss Daisy," and his new movie "Mr. Church" manages to traffic in some of the same clich├ęs about white folks learning life lessons from a wise African-American servant.

Eddie Murphy makes a rare dramatic turn as the title character, a jazz-loving cook hired to help out Marie Brooks (Natascha McElhone) and her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte (Natalie Coughlin), in Los Angeles, circa 1971. Mr. Church is expected to work for six months — the time Marie, who's fighting breast cancer, is expected to live — but ends up staying for years, serving as Marie's nurse and a helper to college-bound Charlotte (played as an adult by Britt Robertson). While Mr. Church is supportive of Charlotte's dreams of being a writer, he's also furiously guarded about his privacy and what he does after hours.

An opening title card says the story is based on a real-life friendship, but it feels like screenwriter Susan McMartin (a veteran of the TV sitcoms "Two and a Half Men" and "Mom") was moved more by decades of melodramas about all-wise servants improving the lives of the people they serve. Murphy gives the thankless role some soul, and bit of a twinkle in his eye, but it's not enough to free the movie from a swamp of phony sentimentality.

'Mr. Church'

Opens Friday, Sept. 16, at the Megaplex 20 at The District (South Jordan) and the Megaplex at Thanksgiving Point (Lehi); rated PG-13 for thematic elements; 104 minutes.