…it would look a lot like “Joyful Noise.” Which, may turn some people off, but in this case, it’s what kept this film rockin’ and rollin’!
Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) has just been promoted to choral director of her small, struggling church in Pacashau, Georgia and is an overworked mother of two teenagers, Olivia (Keke Palmer) and Walter (Dexter Darden), who as Asperger syndrome, with an estranged husband in the Army. Vi Rose keeps her kids on a tight leash with her traditional values and a stickler for habitual Gospel music with no room for the pop stuff!
The happy-go-lucky, larger than life, G.G. Sparrow (a comeback performance for Dolly Parton) continues to butt heads with Vi Rose, since she doesn’t agree with the Pastor in his choosing for Vi Rose to lead the choir. G.G. is still suffering from the recent loss of her husband and former choral predecessor, Bernie (Kris Kristofferson), yet still has the urge to give back and live life.
G.G.’s rebellious grandson Randy (breakout star Jeremy Jordan) comes to town from the big city and shakes things up “Footloose” style by encouraging pop music and fawning all over the young and talented Olivia, which doesn’t please stickler Vi Rose one bit.
Writer/director Todd Graff (“Camp” and “Bandslam”) certainly has a love for music and cheesy story lines and is surprisingly, Jewish! Graff puts the characters in colorful situations and develops the relationships beautifully. Despite one awkward subplot involving two members of the choir, I enjoyed watching the characters blossom over the course of two hours.
There are several relationships in this film and one that I was surprisingly impressed by was the friendship between Randy and Walter. There is one fantastic scene where the two sing out their frustrations out in the open that ultimately helps Walter emerge from hiding and finally be seen. Of course, another favorite pairing is that of Vi Rose and G.G. and how their annoyance for each other eventually grows to fondness, (cliched, I know), but Latifah and Parton do an excellent job of making it fun to watch.
Every singing sequence is exciting and energetic as the choir covers pop songs like Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” to Usher’s “Yeah!”, which is turned into the Jesus-version, if you can believe the impossible. Latifah and Parton each have their own solos in the film, Latifah sings, “Fix Me, Jesus” and Parton sings “From Here to the Moon and Back”, which are both just lovely.
For true fans of Gospel out there, Karen Peck appears briefly singing “Mighty High” during one of the competitions and you’re darn tootin’ she’s a white girl too!
To the breakout stars of “Noise”, Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan, please don’t stop singing! Jordan, who starred in Broadway-flop “Bonnie & Clyde,” would be wise pursue another role with his triple-threat skills and boyish good looks. While Palmer shows us she can belt, she’s also a true film actress as well, especially in one scene where she gets in a heated fight with mother Vi Rose.
Where “Noise” loses volume, is its messy subplots that take the focus away from the overall uplifting message of the picture.
Though it may be predictable, I wish more cliched and goofy movies left you with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step as you leave the theatre. If you don’t walk in expecting an artful, Oscar-winning picture, you will leave “Joyful Noise” hopping to the beat of the last energetic number.