Joyful Noise: Movie Review
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Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton’s new movie, Joyful Noise, is a mix of faith and foolishness. This new Warner Bros. picture, directed by Todd Graff, about a gospel choir desperate for a win, soars and then it struggles. The film’s religious sincerity is appreciated, but a moment of irreverence and jumbled messages overshadowed its faith dialogue.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) both want their church’s choir to make it to the national Joyful Noise Choir Competition in Los Angeles. The problem is they both have very different ideas of how to make that happen. Traditional, Vi Rose is set in her ways and thinks improving the delivery of the Gospel songs they’re used to singing will do the trick. G.G. disagrees, wanting to completely rework it. To save the choir and their troubled families, Vi Rose and G.G. must choose what’s worth fighting for.
THE GOOD AND BAD IN JOYFUL NOISE
In her first big screen role in 20 years, Dolly Parton dons a form-fitting choir robe as G.G. Sparrow, a well-to-do, outspoken member of the small-town choir. Vi Rose, played by Queen Latifah (Chicago), is her rival and obstacle to becoming the new choir director. Young actors Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee) and Dexter Darden (Cadillac Records) play Vi Rose’s teenage daughter and son, with Jesse L. Martin as their absentee father. Broadway actor Jeremy Jordan takes the role of G.G.’s troublesome grandson. Real-life Gospel stars Kirk Franklin and Karen Peck make musical appearances.
Filmmaker Todd Graff (Bandslam), who wrote and directed the film, will hear mixed reviews for Joyful Noise. On the one hand, the script is faith-friendly and offers great Gospel sounds throughout the film. For the most part, Joyful Noise unabashedly speaks the name of Jesus Christ – and not in a profane way, as is the custom for most Hollywood movies. The faith talk isn’t overly preachy either, giving it the potential to be a great conversation starter. There is one especially touching scene between Vi Rose and her son Walter, who has autism. Walter says he hates God for giving his mother a messed up child. Vi Rose’s beautiful answer explains why she has never blamed God for his condition, offering the clear message that we can trust our Creator no matter what our human eyes see.
At the same time, the script sends conflicting messages – upholding the plot-moving misdeeds of key characters as the choir reaches for the competition title. Humanity is shown as a contrast to the holy and rightly so, but the language and sexual content distract from the film’s message of living a life devoted to God. One instance in particular may irk some. At one of the competitions, a choir’s lead singer falls to his knees and at cue speaks in an unknown language (commonly known in the Evangelical Church as speaking in tongues). Whether it was intentional or not, this scene makes light of a move of God’s Holy Spirit. Its inclusion in the film will most likely leave believers shaking their heads as they see this very spiritual practice used during a singing competition rather than as an authentic reaction to God’s presence.
IN THE END
Joyful Noise never shies away from its religious message, posing life questions and encouraging moviegoers to look to God. Unfortunately, the movie's offensive content (including a one-night stand and foul language), plus its mangled messages detract from what could have been a good movie for families.
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