By Gary Murray


Starring Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah and Keke Palmer


Written and directed by Todd Graff


Running time 117 min


MPAA Rating PG-13


Selig Film Rating Matinee


The family live action film has fallen on hard times.  In the heyday of Disney and MGM, there were all sorts of great films that the entire family could enjoy.  Today films that one can take both grandma and the grandkids to are usually animated and not live action.  Joyful Noise is the kind of film that just about every audience can watch together.


The story of Joyful Noise is of two women, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton).  Both sing in their little Georgia church.   As the movie starts, G.G. experiences a tragedy and Vi Rose gets the position of choir master.  Vi Rose wants to keep the songs with older arrangements and very gospel flavored.  The newer members of the choir want to move the singing in the direction of pop flavoring.  Leading this charge is Olivia (Keke Palmer).  Trouble comes in the door with the arrival of the grandson of G.G. Randy (Jeremy Jordan).  It seems that he has always been the out of town trouble-maker, a kid with a reputation.


Randy eventually becomes a part of the choir to get nearer to Olivia.   The two kids becoming close which brings sparks between the two ladies.  It isn’t racial, it is spiritual.  The two women battle over the direction of the choir as they practice to win a regional competition.  This eventually leads to higher drama and a chance to win a national competition.


The story of Joyful Noise is the journey to the competition, the young lovers finding common ground and the two battling older women–each with her own personal demons to affront.  The film is filled with songs, both gospel and secular, almost to the point that the film becomes a musical.   Every bit of plot is very old Hollywood.


This is the kind of film that my mother will enjoy.  It breaks no new ground and anyone who has seen a movie can figure out what is going to happen almost before the first frames flicker over the screen.  But, much like a romantic comedy, the film is not about the destination but the journey.


I have interviewed Dolly Parton once and found her to be one of the most honest people I have ever met.  At the press conference, she didn’t back away from any question no matter how personal.  Almost from the onset she came across as genuine without any fears, full of charm and wit.   She still looks great (thanks to her much mentioned plastic surgeon) and still sings as if touched by an angel.  This role doesn’t require much acting prowess and Parton basically plays herself.


I was pleasantly surprised by Queen Latifah.  Not with her acting which she has proved on many occasions but with her singing.  She goes toe to toe with Dolly and Keke and never misses a beat.  For someone who isn’t known as a singer she comes across as an accomplished musician.


The big confrontation between Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton is the showcase scene of the work.  Though they spar with each other, throwing food but one can tell that they both struggle not to break out in laughter.  It a winning little bit of comedy and the high point of the film.


Keke Palmer is the captivating performance and the best reason to see Joyful Noise.  Not only does she sing like the Spirit is wrapped around her heart but she gives the film a center.  This performance should be the breakout role for the young actress.


The biggest problem I had with Joyful Noise was the disrespect they had for traditional choir music.  The idea that one has to take secular songs and tweak them into religious ones is the only way an audience can relate to the gospel seemed wrong.  There are many moving Christian songs and it doesn’t take just Sly Stone and Motown to get an audience to feel the Gospel.


Joyful Noise is not going to make any critical award list but it should do a tremendous box office.  It is a simple, charming little film that is more an audience winner than a ground breaking work of cinema.

Written By
More from Gary Murray
Fright Night
FRIGHT NIGHT   By Gary Murray   Starring Anton Yelchin, Collin Farrell...
Read More
0 replies on “JOYFUL NOISE”