Sugary sweet movies that focus on religion are usually straight to DVD fare. Sure, they’ll always have an audience, but these movies rarely have what it takes to cross over and compete with other mainstream films. “Joyful Noise,” on the other hand, with its eclectic cast and worldly nuances does an excellent job at focusing on being an interesting film that happens to have a religious theme.
“Joyful Noise” is the story of a small town church choir that wants to win the national Joyful Noise singing competition. However, when the choir director (Kris Kristofferson) dies, the very stubborn Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) is chosen as the new leader. Vi Rose quickly finds herself at odds with the former director’s widow, G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), over the direction of the choir. G.G. thinks the choir needs to change in order to have a chance at winning. Vi Rose, on the other hand, wants to keep the choir’s tried-and-true traditional style even if it means losing the competition.
Toss in a Romeo-and-Juliet-forbidden-love subplot between Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) and this turns out to be a relatively entertaining movie.
Because Vi Rose’s relationship with her daughter is the center of this film, Queen Latifah really gets to show her range of singing and acting abilities. From humor to heartache, Latifah does a great job at making her character believable. Parton is also a terrific addition to the cast. Her humor and country lightheartedness serves as a good contrast to the by-the-book attitude of Latifah’s Vi Rose character.
The best part of this movie, however, is the music. Palmer does a phenomenal rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” In fact, the addition of so many worldly songs sets this film apart from others of its kind. It allowed those who aren’t familiar or fond of traditional gospel music to still enjoy the film.
With that said, this film’s length is its biggest problem. Two hours is just too long for this type of movie. There are many unnecessary subplots and even complete segments of the main storyline that could have been cut to make this a much better film. For instance, one of Olivia’s early suitors is just not needed. The audience never gets to hate or like this character. He’s just simply used as a time-sucking catalyst for other events. Also, a duet between Parton and Kristofferson may have seemed like a good idea in the script, but it turned out to be weird and even somewhat out of place on the big screen.
Overall, is the film too long? Yes.
Is it at times cliché. Definitely.
Is the fight between Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton’s characters worth the price of theater admission alone? Absolutely.
“Joyful Noise” definitely has a few problems, but its strong cast, off-the-wall humor and terrific music makes it a fun film. Plus any movie that can turn Usher’s “Yeah” into a gospel song is a must see.
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