You’ve probably seen one of these before: a movie about finding the middle in the midst of two opposing ideas or forces, or finding hope and healing in the midst of brokenness, or experiencing hope in the middle of economic and social friction. With Joyful Noise, you get all of the above, with an extra helping of gospel music laid down as the backbeat, the backbone even, headlined by Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah.
Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) compares God to a parent who loves his or her child, even when that parent is trying to get his or her child eating good food and the parent doesn’t understand. She’s trying to convey to her autistic son Walter (Dexter Darden) that he’s special, important, and loved, even as he struggles to understand why God would’ve made him so different from everyone else, and she lives without her husband (Jesse Martin). It’s one of the myriad side plots originating out of a church choir in a little town, heading toward competition regionally (think Bring It On with music) that the movie binds (sometimes, successfully) together.
G.G. Sparrow (Parton) has her own problems: she’s just lost her husband, the former choir director, her passionate grandson (Jeremy Jordan) moves in and sets his eyes on Vi’s daughter (Keke Palmer), and her hope to lead the choir gets run over by the pastor (Courtney B. Vance) and the church board. And those two matriarchs of the church are just the main storylines! There are also loveless singles, country bumpkins, and just about every other stock character they could stick in here (there’s even Kirk Franklin as the rival choir leader!).
This leads me to my main complaint. While the plotlines are obvious, the acting mediocre, and the music is spectacular, the movie lacks passion. It’s noise, and the music IS joyful, but the rest is… not. Maybe that’s enough to trip you up, but probably not. If you dig the Tyler Perry vibe, happen to be in love with one of the leading ladies, or just think gospel music is hot, then you’re going to love the crime-free version of Sister Act III.
Theologically, it’s all about healing, and music. It’s got its fun moments, and its entertainment value, and you get to hear Dolly say, “Darn tootin’!” But in the end, the music rises above the cliches, and the ending will fill you with warm fuzzies… if you’re there at the end. Speaking of the end, you can enjoy the spotlights on Dollly’s “From Here To The Moon,” check out the pair of leading ladies sing “He’s Everything,” watch extended and deleted scenes, or get further into the making of the movie that revolves around the music.
Warner Bros.’ Joyful Noise is available now on Bluray, DVD, and with Ultraviolet Digital Copy.