Mixing cornball and music magic
If there has been a musical-based movie that contains a sweeter collection of song numbers (“Joyful”) to go with a more inane script (“Noise”), one doesn’t come to mind. So while it can’t be recommended, “Joyful Noise” is likely to cause your feet to tap as much it causes your mind to cringe.
Think of the structure as a “Glee”-influenced production written by some out of touch fashion fossils who nonetheless recognize a good song when they hear one. The bounteous stars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton portray Vi Rose and G.G., at-odds members of the Sacred Divinity Choir of Pacashau, Georgia. The pair’s cultural and economic differences are exacerbated when G.G.’s free-spirited grandson (Jeremy Jordan) falls instantly and hard for Vi Rose’s petulant but velvety-voiced daughter (TV’s “True Jackson” star Keke Palmer).
Desperate to win the big choir competition, there are conflicts about the type of songs the choir should sing and whether the effort to travel makes financial sense, especially given the rural town’s economic downturn. Often those relatively tricky themes get pushed aside by the annoying idiosyncrasies of the other choir members, an occasionally interesting subplot involving a young man with Asperger’s, and an exasperating reliance on corny Southernisms.
Then there is the matter of Dolly Parton’s painfully obvious facial modifications. Don’t assume after 1 hour and 58 minutes you will get used to them. You won’t.
This is a bit of a shame because Dolly still has the writing and singing chops to make several numbers in “Joyful Noise” worth, well, at least listening to. Same with Queen Latifah, who makes the most of a quiet plaintive ballad in addition to providing the film’s only truly authentic moments of dialogue – a strong, working Mom’s rebuke of her daughter’s disrespectful whinings.
But the real reason to see—maybe endure is the better word—“Joyful Noise” is the spirited gospel-n-soul flavored versions of pop songs as diverse as McCartney and MJ, with some Sly Stone and Usher thrown in for good measure.
As for having to see it in the theater, this is why they invented the fast forward button on your remote.
Rated PG-13 for some language and a sexual reference.