Joyful Noise is a very straightforward movie. It brings you into the simple world of a small town church that competes in the annual “Joyful Noise” gospel singing competition. But of course, there’s more to the mundane that is this movie. Well, kind of.
So we begin with the Divinity Church Choir of Pacashau, Georgia on center stage at the semifinals of the annual Joyful Noise church singing competition. Let me tell you, they are rocking the shit. Everyone is getting into the music, even choir director Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) who has a heart attack and is pulled off stage by his loving wife G.G. (Dolly Parton). The choir pushes and finishes their act and moves on to the regional finals, without longtime director Bernard who passes soon after.
The church, devastated, picks up the pieces from losing their friend and appoints Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) the new director of the choir. This doesn’t make G.G. too happy, as she was expecting to get the role. Thus starts the onward bickering between Vi and G.G..
G.G. wants to change up the choir, but Vi is way too stubborn of a bitch to change anything. That is until G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes in to town to shake things up. Randy has an amazing set of pipes and the musical skill to bring the choir to another level, but that’s not really what he wants the most. He wants to get close to Vi’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer). He does that by joining the choir and teaching her Asperger-cursed brother Walter (Dexter Darden) how to play the piano. The kids have taken a liking to him but Vi still does not approve of anyone dating her daughter, let alone thinking of dating her, or thinking of thinking of dating her, etc., etc.
With all sorts of hijinks, a little bit of luck (or God being on your side, in this case), and constant bickering between Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, the Divinity Church Choir pushes through to the finals in Los Angeles where they put on the biggest show of their lifetime.
Joyful Noise is the same “inspirational” story that’s been rehashed over and over again. The underdogs dream big and achieve their goal. Not that there’s a problem with that, but for God’s sake, somebody throw a pie!
The movie focuses a lot on stubbornness. Queen Latifah’s character has been sold on this same ol’ shit that she grew up with while it seems everyone else wants to move up to something flashier that can actually get them to win. Same goes with her daughter who wants to go out and date, but Latifah objects. Of course, in the end, she comes to terms and accepts change for the better. Whoop-de-do!
Dolly Parton’s character is annoying as fuck, or maybe it’s just Dolly. I can’t stand her looks and voice. She shows no emotion besides upbeat and cheerful, even when her husband dies, she still has a big grin on her face.
When you put Dolly and Latifah together, you get back and forth one-liners that aren’t really funny. They basically compete to see who is the sassiest of them all until they get in to a lousy hair-pulling scuffle. Five to ten minutes later, they are getting along and everything is resolved. Did I miss something?
If there was anything that is kind of enjoyable, it is the music. The music is somewhat catchy and they bring in some popular elements to gospel music, which was due for a well-needed facelift (Dolly’s got a number you can call). Though, their big finale of a song is one big overkill, to be subtle, the rest weren’t nearly as bad. They even utilize Usher’s “Yeah” and change the lyrics to be more God-appropriate. Fuck!
Then we have the side story of Randy and Olivia, which is actually more interesting to watch than the rest of the material in the movie. Randy comes in to town and immediately has his sights set on dating Olivia. She steps back a little because her over-protective mom and fear of being punished, but succumbs to the charm and flawlessness of Randy. There was no real conflict that Randy has with anyone other than people hating on him because of their stubbornness.
I think the problem that director Todd Graff has is balancing drama and comedy. There are moments where people should be sad, but Dolly Parton fucks that up by being there. If they are going to half ass the serious parts (besides Latifah’s freak out), they shouldn’t even include them. The drama was underdone, whether it’s Walter’s struggle with Asperger’s or G.G.’s husband; they didn’t seem to care enough to touch up on.
Though there are quite a few things wrong with this movie, I can’t say it was completely awful. Yes, it was predictable and cheesy, but there was a little bit of charm and some darn-tootin’ stupid sayings that came out of Parton’s mouth that made me laugh. It doesn’t merit enough to gain the Wilson Thumbs Up of Approval, but it managed to elude the Middle Finger of Desolation.
Joyful Noise – 5/10