Joyful Noise

11 Feb

Title: Joyful Noise
Year: 2012
Director: Todd Graff
Writer: Todd Graff
Starring: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some language including a sexual reference
Runtime: 118 min
IMDb Rating: 4.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 34%
Metacritic: 44

There’s certainly a target audience for Joyful Noise; I just think I’m not part of it. Don’t get me wrong, the musical numbers were somewhat fun at times (though ideally they would’ve been really fun), and the chemistry between Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton was enjoyable, but everything else is just way, way off target in my opinion. The film is set in Pacashau, a small town in Georgia that’s recently fallen on hard times, but who’s people are pining all their remaining hopes on their local church choir to win the National Joyful Noise Competition. Except there’s a discord between two strong-minded women within the choir, Vi Rose Hill (played by Ms. Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (played by Ms. Parton) that may bring them apart.

You see, Vi Rose wants them to stick to the traditional formula they’ve always done, while G.G. thinks that to actually win they have to shake things up a bit. Not to mention that Randy arrives, the rebellious grandson of G.G., and with him brings along a fine ear for music but also adds tension to the rift between his grandmother and Vi Rose as he sets his eyes on Olivia, the talented daughter of Vi Rose. And that’s pretty much it for the plot of the film, it obviously has a predictable ending as well, but everything else is just filled to the brims with musical numbers that, while fun at times, are just way too cheesy and forced and extra-sweet. When the music works though, it comes close to getting this film to a decent level, or at least to something better than this, same goes for the chemistry between its two leads, but in the end it falls way too short.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is what’s become of Queen Latifah nowadays. She’s a really charming performer, hell she even has an Oscar nod for her work in Chicago, but other than in Hairspray she hasn’t been in a good film in the decade since. She’s always really charming and effective in the film’s she’s in, but that’s used mostly to elevate that film from sheer crap to something bearable, and not from something good to something great like it ideally would. The target audience for this film are people who love gospel music, and while I like gospel I’m just not a lover of it; but even then, I just didn’t believe the team of Pacashau as a gospel team, a fact that’s even more obvious once we get to the scenes at the national competition and we see real gospel choirs. Our team is just a mismatch of personalities that aren’t believable, speaking lines that are even less so.

The one thing you could say is that you go into Joyful Noise expecting all of this. This is an underdog-type story so of course you expect the film to be shameless in its exaggerations, about doing every single thing it can in order to create an emotional moment, even if the story didn’t warrant it. Because it really doesn’t warrant moments of emotion, because we don’t really invest in these characters at all; the rift between Vi Rose and G.G. seems dumb, I never once cared that Vi Rose got the position as choir director over G.G. who was the widow of the former director and thus thinks she’s entitled to it. Not to mention that the whole church scene doesn’t seem believable, every single one of its members was typecast in order to achieve some sort of diversity, and, unfortunate as it may be, I really don’t think that small town George gospel churches have members of every single race and background. Not to mention that this film is not spiritual at all, it’s as though the churches are just places where music is sang and there’s some praying too, and not the other way round.

It’s just so full of clichés every step of the way, from Vi Rose and G.G. having to learn to put their pride aside for the good of the church, to the romance between Randy and Olivia that goes through every stereotypical situations the romances in these films go, and every one of those scenes you get the sense that is only there to get to put on a musical production. And the songs are good, but they have absolutely nothing on which to support themselves; the scenes seem just awfully messy, the character interactions sound dumb. Not to mention that when the obligatory climatic scene at the finals of the championship arrives it doesn’t feel earned at all, it feels like it shouldn’t happen considering what’s transpired before it, it feels just like a shameless need for the filmmakers to put on a big number with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.

Like I said, I’m certainly not the target audience for Joyful Noise; and maybe diehard fans of Queen Latifah who love her blend of charm and strong-woman energy will love this film, maybe Dolly Parton fanatics (I’m sure they have a nickname they go by, and I’d love to know it) will do too. The one thing is that Joyful Noise delivers what you expect from it, so if you like what the (really horrible) poster and trailer sells, then by all means check this one out. I went into it thinking it wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but even so I left disappointed with it.

Grade: C-


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