Joyful Noise manages to bring the occasional laugh and some good musical numbers, but they aren’t enough to keep the movie from being easily forgettable. The laughs come from the chemistry between Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, but other aspects of the film felt forced and fell flat.
Written and directed by Todd Graff (Bandslam and Camp), the film stars Latifah, Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Dexter Darden, Courtney B. Vance, Kris Kristofferson (in a blink and you miss him performance), Angela Grovey, Paul Woolfolk, Francis Jue, Jesse L. Martin, Andy Karl, Dequina Moore, and Roy Huang.
The film opens with a small town church choir doing what they do best, but their choir director (Kristofferson) suffers a heart attack and dies. His wife G.G. Sparrow (Parton) buries her husband and then is shocked to learn the church pastor (Vance) has passed her over to be the new choir director and given the job to Vi Rose Hill (Latifah). Sparrow and Hill don’t get along very well, and it is clear there is going to be some good laughs from the two women’s conflict.
Their dislike for each other increases when G.G.’s grandson Randy Garrity (Jordan) moves in with her and starts up a romance with Vi’s daughter Olivia (Palmer). Randy is a bit of a bad boy, or at least not as good as Vi’s very sheltered daughter.
Although she is told to stay away from him, Olivia can’t resist Randy’s charm, and the two are completely in love within minutes. Randy also charms his way into Vi’s home through his friendship with her son Walter (Darden) – who has Asperger’s Syndrome and doesn’t have many friends.
The film moves at a predictable pace with Vi and G.G. fighting for control of the choir; Vi and Olivia fighting over her relationship with Randy; and Randy finding his place in G.G.’s church world.
Although it doesn’t offer as many laughs as it should, Joyful Noise does have some funny moments – such as the cat fight between Parton and Latifah and the way Parton breaks up a make-out session between Randy and Olivia.
Parton is a natural at her Southern style of comedy and uses just about every redneck one-liner she can think of in the film. Her style is a perfect foil to Latifah’s street wise charm and the two make a really good comedy duo.
I also enjoyed how Latifah presented Vi as a good parent who works hard to provide for her children, but also makes sure she is raising them right. Although she is married, Vi is pretty much a single mom with her husband (Martin) serving in the army and stationed in another city. It is later revealed that Vi has been keeping some secrets from her children regarding their father, and his reasons for going back to the army.
Keke Palmer shines in the musical numbers, but the talented actress suffers in the romance aspects of the story with Jordan. There is next to no chemistry between the two actors – mostly due to the love story feeling so rushed and forced.
The film looks great on Blu-ray, and comes with some decent bonus material including a look at Dolly Parton’s song “From Here to the Moon” and “making of” features.
Joyful Noise isn’t as funny as it could have been, but the film does manage to entertain thanks to the talents of Parton and Latifah. It also has several good music sequences which help make up for some of the movie’s weaker moments.
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