'Joyful Noise' Rocks!
Can anyone imagine a real food fight between Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah? That’s one of the entertaining scenes in Joyful Noise, a family-style dramedy about a choir that wants to win a gospel music competition so bad the members are willing to bend their criteria and ride on a bus more than 2000 miles.
Vi Rose (Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Parton) sing in the same church choir in Georgia. When Bernard (Kris Kristofferson), the choir director, passes away, Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) chooses Vi Rose to be his successor. This does not set well with G. G. The director was her husband, and she assisted with arranging the music -- but even more important, she’s the biggest financial giver to the church. However, Pastor Dale stands by his first choice.
Rehearsals continue but the women’s relationships are strained. That friendship becomes challenged even more when G.G.’s troubled grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) returns to town. Randy has some musical skills the choir likes, and their status-quo gospel tunes have become too monotonous for them. This annoys Vi Rose, but not as much as his attention to her teen-aged daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer).
Randy and Olivia are soon dating behind Vi Rose’s back. Although resenting the boy, Vi Rose sees some good in him. For example, Randy befriends her son Walter (Dexter Darden), who has Asperger’s syndrome, by helping him learn to play the piano and just have fun after he suffers a meltdown.
Vi Rose is also stressed because her husband Marcus (Jessie L Martin) re-joined the Armed Forces and is off to deployment. She believes he simply wanted out of the marriage. Dealing with this situation as well as the resentment by her children seems more than she can handle. Her meanness soon becomes a problem for her friends and choir members. It’s just the opposite with G.G., who guides Randy with sweet grandmotherly advice and keeps the choir moving forward.
The joy in this film, written and directed by Todd Graff (Bandslam), comes from the music and watching Parton and Latifah work out their differences. (SPOILER ALERT) The choir enters a national competition, but because of their lackluster performance they miss the top prize. When the first place team is disqualified, they get another chance. This time Vi Rose listens to her choir and allows Randy to join and update their music choices.
Performances are key here. Latifah does what she does best -- stand her ground and sing. Parton appears true to her personality as well -- joyous, steadfast and mighty strong for a little spitfire.
Jordan (TV’s Law & Order), Palmer (Medea Goes to Jail) and Darden (Standing Ovation) are equally impressive. Jordan, an actor to watch, makes his film debut in this film. He can sing, act and projects lots of charisma. Palmer does an excellent job taking her character through the different emotions of teen-bliss and teen-angst. Unfortunately, the five-minute appearance of Kristofferson left me disappointed.
Joyful Noise is a great film for families -- as well as for anyone who likes music and/or stories about family ups and downs.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some language including a sexual reference.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.