GENRE: Faith-fueled musical comedy
THE PITCH: After the loss of her choir director husband, G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) is conflicted with the appointment of Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) as new person to helm the Divinity Church choir. Things remain tense between the two and escalate when Sparrow's trouble-making grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) blows back into town with a plan to shake up the choir and win the National Joyful Noise Gospel Competition while getting closer to choir soloist Olivia (Keke Palmer), who just happens to be Hill's teenage daughter.
MONEY SHOT: The musical finale. The choir delivers a high energy, foot-stomping performance. The songs are mashup of traditional gospel and contemporary secular pop and R&B hits that brought the house down.
BEST LINE: G.G. Sparrow's many zingers are a non-stop track of down home expressions. Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) comforts G.G. in his office saying, "Your husband had a lot of love," to which G.G. replies, "Man had five kids, must have loved something." Explaining the estrangement between she and her daughter, Randy's mother she says, "God give you girls so your momma can say I told you so." I tried to count how many pearls G.G. spouted, but gave up after 15.
BETTER LINE: Frustrated and fed up with Olivia's disrespectful outbursts and actions, Vi delivers a diatribe in the halls of the hotel that goes on for about two minutes but will have any mother who hears it taking notes for ammunition for their own teenagers.
WORST LINE: Tensions are still running high and Pastor Dale has no faith in young Randy. So much so, he's willing to cancel the choir's trip to the national competition. Citing the issue being a matter of economics, he shrugs and says, "I didn't create this economy." Neither Vi nor G.G. can believe the load of crock he's spewing at this point.
PARTON THE INTERRUPTION: Yeah I can't overlook Dolly's serial nips and tucks, but why should I? Her face looks as if its been preserved taxidermy style. Cheekbones are high, eyes and mouth wrinkle-free. Her face is pulled tight enough that both eyes are still able to blink and she can still belt out a song, but if you're looking to see anything emotional on that surgically chiseled face like smiling, tears or anger - you're out of luck. Her on screen husband Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) must have the same doctor because he's pulled so much he's perpetually sporting a slight grin.
STATE ZEAL: A rival choir is disqualified from the gospel competition for hiring professional performers. Vi, now energized on the possibility of winning the competition after so many losses declares, "You can't trust no one outside the state of Georgia!"
MAP QUEST: There's no town named Pacashau in Georgia where this film is fictionally based, or anywhere else on the map according to Google. But if you take pieces of the places around Georgia where was filmed; Atlanta, Decatur, Newnan, Dallas, Conyers and Peachtree City you can make your own small, economically blighted town.
BOTTOM LINE: Writer and Director Todd Graff throws everything and the kitchen sink into this nearly two-hour film. A struggling town, untimely deaths (yup, plural), comedic beats, socio-economic quandaries, matriarchal rivalry, family dysfunction and Asperger's syndrome, then add the competition element, the musical montages ... well you get the idea - its just too much going on. The only thing that keeps your head from spinning is the soul-stirring soundtrack and standout performances by the two anchors, Parton and Latifah.
Still, considering the hodgepodge of subjects each character brings to the fray, the movie remains upbeat and has a pleasant, family relevant message that shines through. Before buying your ticket to see Joyful Noise, clear your plate and check your cynicism because by the end, you'll feel a bit full but pleasantly satisfied.
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