Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Courtney B. Vance
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Make Some Noise; Leading Ladies; Spotlight on a Song: Dolly Parton's "From Here to the Moon"; Inspiration of Joyful Noise; "He's Everything" Live; four extended songs; and deleted scenes.
There is something that film critics hate to admit.
Most people go to a movie to be entertained. It's actually that simple. Oh sure, some people enjoy being intellectually stimulated or challenged. Some people enjoy getting scared out of their wits. Some people want to leave the theater feeling inspired.
But, when it comes down to it most people go to a movie to be entertained. Life is hard and people, at least the majority, don't want their movies to be harder. An awesome script is great, performances do matter and technical competence is absolutely important...but many people will set those things aside for the simple joy of being entertained.
Joyful Noise isn't a brilliant film. Joyful Noise is an entertaining film.
Joyful Noise is the kind of film where you leave the theater singing the songs, still laughing at some of the terrific one-liners and smiling from ear to ear.
That may not be enough for film critics, but it is enough for audiences simply wanting to be entertained.
In the ways in which it lifts your spirits, Joyful Noise brings to mind Sister Act, a film that transcended its mediocrity with spirit, style, pizzazz and good-hearted entertainment. You may not have loved Sister Act, but the odds are pretty good you remember it vividly to this day. For younger audiences, one could easily compare Joyful Noise to Ryan Murphy's Glee with its impossibly inspiring musical sequences and inspired renditions of familiar tunes.
Joyful Noise takes place in the small town of Pacashau, Georgia and centers around the gospel choir at Divinity Church. The choir has always had quite the gift for singing in harmony, but their status as a semi-finalist in the National Joyful Noise Competition is threatened when their choir director (a terrific Kris Kristofferson) has a heart attack and the battling egos of his widow, GG Sparrow (Dolly Parton), and Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah). Both Sparrow and Hill are being considered by the new church as choir director, a choice that also boils down to Hill's preference for more traditional gospel fare and Sparrow's tendency to weave together gospel with pop culture.
Writer/director Todd Graff gave us the popular doc Camp and the underrated Bandslam, and he again rises above the mediocre material with which he's working. As writer, Graff is at least partially responsible for the film's mediocre substance and simplicity of plot. At 118 minutes, Joyful Noise is also a tad too long but, once again, it's entirely possible you won't care one iota as you're tapping your toes and singing along with the film's tunes. What Graff doesn't create in substance, he darn near compensates for with pure entertainment.
There's a side story centering around Hill's daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and GG's grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan). While this could easily feel contrived, both Palmer and Jordan have a winning screen presence and the scenes are filled to the brim with the film's good-hearted sentimentality and humor. There's even a storyline to please folks with disabilities as Hill also has a son with Asperger's Syndrome, Walter (Dexter Darden).
Literally, it seems like every possible audience has been considered in the making of this film.
Everyone here is absolutely terrific, with Graff even managing to figure out how to convincingly stage scenes involving the diminutive Parton and the rather towering Queen Latifah. The truth is that they both tower here, their vocals in wondrous form and perfectly suited to the film's pop-gospel mash-ups.
Parton also is quite game to poke fun of her long-standing history of plastic surgery, and one must admit that her appearance here is a bit jarring as the 66-year-old country music legend has clearly had a bit more work done. Parton's voice and screen presence is as fine as ever, but the body can only handle so much nipping and tucking and a lot of the expressiveness is gone from Parton's face. That said, she's still as delightful as ever.
Sometimes, you go to a movie simply to be entertained.
Pure and simple.
While Joyful Noise may not change your life or blow you away with its cinematic prowess, it's a good-hearted film with an abundance of memorable music and, well, nearly two hours of incredibly joyful noise.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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Richard Propes, The Independent Critic