I saw the trailer for Joyful Noise a few days before seeing the film, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the movie. I’m not a huge fan of gospel music, but I do like Queen Latifah, and it seemed that she and Dolly Parton would make a good pair. The movie, armed with a hilarious script, ended up exceeding my expectations, and it is a film that anyone – gospel fan or not – will enjoy.
Vi Rose (Queen Latifah, Just Wright) lives in the small town of Pacashau, Georgia, with her 16-year-old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer, Red Hook Summer) and her son, Walter (Dexter Darden, Standing Ovation), who has Asperger’s syndrome. Vi Rose and Olivia are very active in their church’s choir, and they are heading to the regional finals for the Joyful Noise competition for the second year in a row. The choir director (Kris Kristofferson, Dolphin Tale), however, passes away shortly before the regional finals, and his wife, G.G. (singer Dolly Parton), hopes to be named the new director, but is disappointed when the honor is given to Vi Rose instead.
At the same time, G.G.’s grandson Randy (newcomer Jeremy Jordan) arrives from New York, where he’s run away from a bad home situation. He becomes interested in Olivia, and realizes that to get closer to her, he will have to join the church choir; luckily, he has an amazing voice. He develops some new versions of classic songs for the group to sing, but Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance, Final Destination 5) is not having any of it, and says that if the choir doesn’t do the older songs, the church will not sponsor them in the competition.
I love movies where it feels like you are watching a show or performance rather than a film, and Joyful Noise is superb at achieving this. The strongest parts of the film is when the choir is singing, and some of what they sing is not “typical” gospel music. There are many subplots, too, that fit right in, such as the budding romance between two of the choir members (not Olivia and Randy), and the result of it, and these provide even more comedy to an already believable script. The “hen fight” type vibe between Latifah and Parton works as well, and result in some of the funnier moments; at one point, Latifah yells at Parton and makes a crack about her age, saying “[Parton] reads the Bible to reminisce!” (Parton, indeed, is getting on in years, but is still a fantastic singer, and not a half bad actress either.)
Yes, see this film. Even if you think that it’s not the type of film that you would like, if you like dancing/singing movies such as Footloose or Save The Last Dance you will love this movie, and you’ll be singing and clapping in your seat by the end of it. There are parts of it that tend to become sappy or “clichéd,” as some may say, but it always returns to singing, and that is where the movie excels. The finale scene, too, is one of the best choir scenes in the movie. The film should do well at the box office with its collection of A-listers such as Latifah and Parton, and I hope that people will see it before (mistakenly) classifying it as a movie that won’t hold their interest.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
*Author’s note: I saw a screening of this film on December 15, 2011. It may or may not be the final version of the film.
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