Joyful Noise is the latest in a string of musical films sparked by the success of TV show Glee and films like Mamma Mia and Chicago (and the dare-to-mention Rock of Ages). Joyful Noise delivers light-hearted gospel renditions of pop songs and showcases two undeniably talented female leads, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.
The film tells the well-known story of a gospel choir trying to bring pride back into their small town in Georgia by competing in the Gospel choir competition, Joyful Noise. After the sudden death of the choirmaster, Vi Rose Hill [Queen Latifah] takes over the running of the choir, much to the distaste of G. G. Sparrow’s [Dolly Parton]. The two have conflicting visions for the choir: Vi Rose and her strict Christian ways prefer the choir to sing old traditional songs; while G.G. and her grandson Randy [Jeremy Jordan] believe singing more popular songs will give them the edge at Nationals. Vi Rose has no time for Randy and his ‘bad boy’ ways, especially when he falls for Olivia [Keke Palmer], Vi Rose’s beautiful and talented daughter who sings lead in the choir.
The strict Christian backdrop of the film is presented in an entirely comical and over the top manner. Hopefully this was the intention of director Todd Graff, though judging by Parton’s involvement, and the southern, mainly Christian, state setting this may not have been the intended reception. Queen Latifah doesn’t convince with her strict Christian woman who won’t let her daughter date, or allow the choir sing pop music. This in-your-face religious stance renders an incredibly biased tone, which can be unnerving if the audience don’t share similar religious beliefs.
Overall, the film is simple, innocent entertainment with musical numbers all set to the uplifting musical genre of gospel. Olivia’s cover of Micheal Jackson’s Man in the Mirror is worthy of pointing out. And once you get over the initial shock of seeing Dolly Parton looking terrifyingly plastic, she actually gives a good performance. It’s worth pointing out that the cast can actually sing, leaving the songs with a natural, less auto-tuned feel to them, which is always welcomed. However, the run of the mill plot coupled with the excessively conservative religious backdrop will not be to everybody’s enjoyment. [Watch the trailer]