I’m not sure how someone came up with the idea of a film pitting Oscar nominees Dolly Parton (“Transamerica,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Nine to Five”) against Queen Latifah (“Chicago,” “Hairspray”), but that’s exactly what they did in Joyful Noise. I guess when you stop to think about it and take a story set in a rural Georgia town about a church choir – there might not be two other actresses better suited for the roles.
Like most small towns in the U.S., Pacashau, Georgia, is feeling the economic collapse in their pocketbooks and their souls. The residents of the small town look to the Divinity Church Choir, to win the National Joyful Noise Competition in Los Angeles, to give them something to believe in. When the choir director (Kris Kristofferson) suddenly dies and Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) is named his replacement instead of his widow, G.G. Sparrow (Parton), sparks begin to fly.
Vi Rose is old-school and wants the choir to perform traditional style music, while the outspoken G.G. thinks they’re going to have shake things up if they have a chance to win! G.G might have a hard time persuading Vi Rose and the pastor on her own but she gets some help when her musically talented grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to visit her. Randy’s rebellious reputation precedes him and when he starts dating Rose’s gorgeous daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer), it adds to the conflict between Rose and Sparrow. Can they put their differences aside and work as a team for the competition?
That’s basically the plot, but there are several subplots also competing for your attention: Rose’s son has Asperger’s Syndrome; her husband has re-enlisted in the Army so he can continue to financially support the family; and there’s an overweight choir member looking for love in the wrong places.
There’s a fun scene, when the conflict between Vi and G.G comes to a climax, in a diner where Vi has picked up a second job to cover the bills. Vi throws some rather harsh barbs as well as dinner rolls at G.G., while poking fun at her numerous plastic surgery procedures. G.G. says, “I am what I am,” Vi Rose replies, “Maybe you were five procedures ago.”
Overall Impression: Writer and Director Todd Graff, has a little too much going on for a two hour movie, leaving it feeling more like a mini-series than a film. However, the music and singing are dynamic! I was pleasantly surprised with the vocal talent of Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan. Now combine that with Parton’s down home charm and country lines like, “Trying to fool me is like trying to sneak sunrise past a rooster,” and you’ve got a cute, inspirational flick. Anyone that enjoy music, gospel or not, should enjoy this movie. I’ll even admit we were tapping our feet and singing along at times.
Joyful Noise is available on Blu-ray, DVD and combo pack at Amazon and other retailers.
Thank you to Warner Bros. for providing me with a copy to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% my own and no additional compensation was received.