"Joyful Noise" Movie Review
The saying “the bigger the hair, the closer to God” is one of the catchphrases employed in the new film “Joyful Noise,” a musical dramedy that’s a little bit country, a little bit rap ‘n roll, and whole lot of sass.
Bringing the sass is the fiery pair of Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. Without the much-needed pairing between the two, the movie would have faltered. Latifah and Parton ignite the screen every time they are together.
Latifah, who also does double-duty as the movie’s Executive Producer, is Vi Rose Hill, the newly appointed director of the Divinity Church Choir. Their small town of Pacashau, Georgia has fallen on hard times and the people are counting on the choir to lift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition.
But if the sassy G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) has her way, she will take the choir to a whole new level much to the chagrin of Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance). Vi Rose wants to stick to traditional style while the fiery G.G. thinks it’s tired and boring.
Adding friction between the dueling divas is the arrival of G.G.’s rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan). He loves music but he’s also falling head over heels for Olivia (Keke Palmer), Vi Rose’s daughter.
Todd Graff wrote and directed “Joyful Noise.” He’s a musical genius of some sorts who has previously given us two music-inspired films “Camp” and “Bandslam.” If “Camp” is about musical camp and “Bandslam” is about a high school band, then “Joyful Noise” is about a gospel choir.
“Joyful Noise” is not the strongest of Graff’s oeuvre as far as predictability and character development are concern. You can figure out where the story is headed minutes after the movie has started.
But as far as music is concern, “Joyful Noise” is Graff’s most pitch-perfect work yet. With the help from music director Mervyn Warren, the film’s soundtrack blends the old (Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson) and the new (Usher, Chris Brown). I was bopping my head every time the choir sings.
And let me stop for a second and praise Parton for her gift in creating beautiful music. She wrote the song “From Here to the Moon” and in the movie, she has an achingly sweet moment with her dearly departed husband (Kris Kristofferson) while singing the song with the full moon serving as their backdrop.
Graff also wrote the character of Walter Hill (Dexter Darden) to show his love of music. Walter is Vi Rose’s son who is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. He loves reciting the long list of Billboard’s one-hit wonders.
One of the biggest problems of “Joyful Noise” is its overreaching need to cover a lot of ground. The economy, Asperger’s, social issues, the military, they’re all mixed into the film’s syrupy-thick plot.
But thank heavens for Latifah and Parton, their Yin and Yang characters keep the film firmly planted on the ground. The subplot about the two young lovers, Randy and Olivia, does not help move the film forward but boy, could they sing!
Palmer, who was so precociously winning in “Akeelah and the Bee,” has the makings of a great actress and I pray that she finds the right project. She has the voice of an angel that perfectly blends with the Broadway-trained Jordan.
I suspect “Joyful Noise” will have a second life in Broadway. The film’s subject belongs in the Great White Way. If they can make a musical about “Spider-Man,” then they can certainly bring in the noise with “Joyful Noise.”
While the film is predictable, the chorus is uplifting. And sometimes, a movie about faith and determination is just what we need. After all, there’s nothing wrong with popping and locking for God.
RATING: “Joyful Noise” gets 2 ½ kisses
Country: United States
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