Fortunately, they are not the only characters in the film. Parton’s bad-boy grandson (Jeremy Jordan) comes to live with her, and is immediately smitten by Latifah’s daughter (Keke Palmer), who sings with the choir—and inspires him to join in. He urges the new choral director Latifah to adopt some modern ideas about her repertoire and performance style, especially since the group repeatedly comes in second in a national competition. Therein lays the crux of the plot.
But musically, there is nothing to complain about: old-timey gospel numbers (including one composed by Parton) are contrasted with new material and compatible pop tunes like Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” All of this is under the direction of Mervyn Warren, formerly of the a cappella group Take 6. Keke Palmer, who came to my attention as the little girl in Akeelah and the Bee six years ago, is now a beautiful 18-year-old with an equally beautiful singing voice. She and Jordan harmonize well when they’re not engaged in puppy love.
The best thing I can say about Joyful Noise is that it’s a movie you can take your mother to see…although she may object to one line regarding the sexual subplot. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)