Oh song and dance movies, they’re getting to become as easy to produce as Crocs. It’s ironic that Joyful Noise is a film that brings up the debate of contemporary vs. traditional, while at the same time having a hard time blending the two within the movie. There are moments in Joyful Noise that are just downright cringe-inducing and odd, as if the director had no idea which audience to satisfy so threw in everything. The movie is already mediocre but by the end you’ll be saying “This movie was made for church groups and kids?”
Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) are choir directors who can’t seem to come to a compromise when it comes to using traditional or contemporary songs in their choir. When Vi’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G.G’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) fall for each other the two directors force them apart. As a big choir competition looms over everyone, the group will have to find the strength to succeed and come together.
Joyful Noise is Glee for gospel choirs as there is a steady combination of gospel music and contemporary songs. From a strong rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” to Queen Latifah’s singing of “Fix Me Jesus” there’s a song for everyone.
Sadly, there isn’t anything good enough to just let you get the soundtrack and leave it at that. The movie is almost two hours, that’s right two hours, and there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough to sustain that runtime and that’s factoring in moments when the movie just cuts to a scene and moves on. You have the rivalry between G.G. and Vi Rose, you have the love story between Olivia and Randy, there’s a story about the choir competition, a weird subplot involving the character of Earla (Angela Grovey) and that’s it. Most of these stories could be wrapped up in an hour and a half; there is no reason to make this an almost two hour movie! The biggest flaw is what the movie tries to say. It talks of tradition out one side of the mouth and modernism out the other. Vi Rose yells at her daughter to not take pride in her singing, yet the story includes a subplot where a woman actually kills a man during sex! The songs include gospel music yet throw in a gospel rendition of Usher’s “Yeah!” I have a problem where characters change the lyrics to a song about getting a girl “up on me” to include lyrics about “God and me are the best of homies.” The film ultimately doesn’t know what message to present and doesn’t solve any of them. Olivia’s father is supposedly going to war for a second time, yet it’s revealed he’s hiding from his family, and at the end…he comes back and everything’s fine! This man faked going to war to hide from his family!
The acting is okay in small spurts but nothing you’ll remember by the end. Palmer and Jordan are stock pretty teens pulled apart by warring parents. Latifah and Parton are overacting to the fullest and Parton just throws out homespun Southern wisdom and little else. The cast is ultimately just reading the script, giving no performances or emotion to their roles.
Joyful Noise is a movie you’ll forget as soon as you leave the theater. You might be humming some of the songs but you won’t remember the story, except maybe that atrocious Usher number!