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Joyful Noise - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Joyful Noise
Directing: C
Acting: B
Writing: D-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Music: B-

I'd like to know who has been to any depressed small-town Southern church that is fully integrated with African Americans, Caucasians, and Asian Americans. And has a walking billboard for plastic surgery who is rich for indeterminate reasons but personally bankrolls the congregation's expenses.

Show of hands?

To be fair, I've never been within 700 miles of Georgia, let alone to one of their churches. So, any readers can correct me if I'm being unfair here. And fair or not, this is the least of Joyful Noise's problems, which is frankly one embarrassment after another. Rarely do I want to yell at the screen: "Just stop, you're embarrassing yourself!"

This is a movie in which Queen Latifah plays a woman who justifies beating a choir made up of children in a competition by saying, "Didn't Jesus say, 'Suffer the little children'?" You've got to be kidding me.

I went to this movie really for only one reason only; Dolly Parton. I actually like Queen Latifah very much, but most of her movies are crap; I tend to avoid them. Dolly Parton was in Steel Magnolias, at least. This, on the other hand, is her first movie role since the thoroughly mediocre -- but still better -- Straight Talk in 1992. Apparently her time away from movies has affected her judgment. Why would this script, which is marred by cliché and glutted with lapses in logic, ever be considered something worthwhile? And here we are, with dozens of people who clearly thought so.

Queen Latifah justifies this movie's existence by saying there aren't any other movies like it on the market. If only that were still the case! She and Dolly Parton are so much better than this. It insults their intelligence as much as it does ours.

The one almost redeeming quality is the music. Dolly Parton, now 65 -- why did I think she was older? -- has a voice as beautiful as it ever was. She even wrote a few of the songs. Queen Latifah, for many years known only as a rapper, has a perfectly decent singing voice of her own. The younger actors are all talented singers themselves. So why are they all given such unremarkable songs to sing?

This is a movie about a small-town choir trying to win a national competition. Think Glee, but with more rednecks and plastic surgery. This small-town church with apparent racial harmony suffers the loss of its director, who happens to have been G.G.'s (Parton) husband. The council votes to give the open position to G.G.'s rival, Vi (Latifah). And because all movies like this have to have actors who are under the age of 30 -- even if they're 20-somethings playing teenagers -- G.G.'s grandson Randy (newcomer Jeremy Jordan) has his eye on Vi's daughter (Keke Palmer). They are saddled with awful lines like, "Don't look at my butt. I'm a lady!"

But they all sing, and they all sing wonderfully. But even though the plot turns on Vi finally opening her mind to more exciting songs than the "boring, traditional" ones they have been singing, the so-called exciting ones fail completely at planting themselves firmly in your memory.

Joyful Noise is filled with talent that goes completely wasted. To call it contrived and predictable would be a vast understatement. It's filled with one-liners that clearly mean to be zingers on par with a movie like Steel Magnolias ("I'd call you stubborn but that would be an insult to mules!"). Almost all of them fall flat.

I have no objection to escapist entertainment, or even "inspirational" entertainment, on principle. But Joyful Noise only left me inspired to escape. Certainly there will be audiences who love it. These would be people with no standards.

Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah sing joyfully when they should really be lamenting why God punished them by putting them in this movie.

Overall: C-
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