A massive hit never ends at its own conclusion for better or worse. Lost Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland The Blair Witch Project and other pop culture milestones spawned plenty of imitators of wavering quality that trickled on to screens until the phenomena tapered off. Joyful Noise the new film starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton is one these auxiliary creative endeavors a direct descendant of the cheeky drama/comedy/musical hybrid Glee. But instead of teenage issues and pop covers Joyful Noise swaps in familial struggles gospel tunes and a sizable serving of Christian faith. The combination results in a movie that lacks the jazz hand energy of Glee but packs good-natured laughs to keep someone awake for its two hour duration. More "noise" than "joyful."
Mere minutes after the passing away of choir leader Bernie Vi Rose (Latifah) inherits the position—along with a serving of negative vibes from Bernie's wife G.G. (Parton) who was hoping to take the job herself. The new responsibility is only the beginning of Vi Rose's troubles as she attempts to balance her rebellious daughter Olivia's (Keke Palmer) raging hormones her son Walter's (Dexter Darden) Asperger's syndrome her husband's absence during a military stint and her own old school God-faring ways. Hardships are whipped into further chaos upon the arrival of Randy G.G.'s rambunctious horny grandson who shows up at rehearsal with an eye on Olivia and undeniable vocal skills. Randy's rock and roll edge is readily embraced by the group but even with the national gospel championship on the line Vi Rose isn't ready to toss tradition aside.
Joyful Noise is a mixed bag sporadically entertaining when director Todd Graff (Camp Bandslam) lets his two commanding stars flex their comedic muscles or belt soulful tunes. Latifah and Parton can do both with ease—Latifah has a natural charm while Parton essentially fills the "kooky Betty White" here—but instead of letting the two fly Graff breaks up the action with overwrought drama and bizarre side character stories. The script injects a lot of ideas into the picture—loss of faith modernizing ideologies coping with tragedy sexuality under the eye of God—but every tender moment is fumbled. A gut-wrenching conversation between Vi Rose and her autistic son should have weight and the actors do their best but the material doesn't service the emotional complexity of the scenario. Instead it opts to cut to a musical number. Another sequence involving the overnight demise of another character is even played for comedy even when it causes one woman to question her beliefs.
Thank God for the musical numbers which have enough energy to brush the flimsier moments under the rug. The Glee-inspired pop tune covers (Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror " Usher's "Yeah"—both tailored with religious modifications) aren't nearly as interesting or powerful as the straight-up gospel songs. But unlike the tunes Joyful Noise doesn't have rhyme or reason. A mishmash of played out character stereotypes narrative cliches and enjoyable but erratic music the movie feels more like a cash-in than it should. Latifah and Parton are a sizzling duo but the vehicle built for them is a clunker. As Vi Rose might say the only way to have a great time at Joyful Noise is to believe. Really really hard.
This Friday, Joyful Noise will echo throughout theaters nationwide. The happy, hearty, sweet story about a small-town church choir looks to be a feel-good family film. We've thrown together a compilation of clips from the movie that celebrates its whimsy, wonder and testament to the power of music.
After the longtime leader of the church choir passes away, G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) assumes that she is a shoe-in for the position of his replacement. Apparently, however, the church has other plans in the form of Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah).
Olivia (Keke Palmer) is quite a talented singer. So talented, in fact, that she has earned the eye—and ear—of young Randy (Jeremy Jordan), who has vowed to win her heart.
If there's one thing you apparently do not do, it's sneak in secret choir rehearsals behind Vi Rose’s back. Vi Rose denies the application of her daughter Olivia's friend Randy, whom she doesn't much care for.
Apparently, Randy ain't so bad after all: he manages to connect to Walter (Dexter Darden), a young man with Asperger's Syndrome, through the power of music: specifically, the song "Walk Away Renee."
Romance is brewing between Olivia and Randy…unfortunately, Olivia’s mother would not be too glad to hear about this.
If there’s one thing Happy Feet taught us, it’s that singing and dancing can coexist perfectly. The below scene shows G.G. envisioning her and Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) enjoying a dreamy, moonlit dance.
You can’t expect a movie called Joyful Noise to NOT have at least one heartwarming mother-daughter moment. When Vy finally accepts that her daughter is growing up, the tears begin flowing.