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Joyful Noise—movie review

by Leonard Maltin
January 13, 2012 1:00 AM
  • |
Van Redin - Warner Bros.

It takes the combined personalities of Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton to wring entertainment value out of Joyful Noise, which they do to some degree, but it’s the lively choral music performances that partially salvage this kettle of corn. As longtime rivals in a small Georgia church choir, Latifah and Parton hurl insults and homilies back and forth with reckless abandon. The word “shameless” comes to mind after the fifth or sixth example sails by.

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.

Writer-director Todd Graff, whose mother (we learn in the closing credits) led a Hadassah choir for many years, has concocted a script that’s long and needlessly busy. He even incorporates a needless subplot about two choir members having sex that earns the otherwise squeaky-clean movie a PG-13 rating.

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.)

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  • Monica | February 14, 2012 2:57 AMReply

    This movie ws horrible!!! So glad I bootlegged it & didn't go to the movies to see it. Me & my mom are sitting here like wtf. It had no meaning to it at all. & this relationship thing?..the kids are 16..are u kidding me. Just a horrible horrible horrible directed film!

  • Jeremy | February 6, 2012 8:04 PMReply

    This was a great movie! I watched it twice with different groups of people and everyone loved it! It makes you leave in a great mood. Dolly and Queen Latifah are both very funny and the music is wonderful. One part even made my mother cry it was so sweet. It was an awesome movie I want to buy.

  • Vic | February 6, 2012 3:40 PMReply

    I loved this movie because it had such powerful messages about relationships, endurance and most importantly, the love of God. To see people of all ages from different cultures and walks of life coming together to praise the Lord is a theme we don't see at the movies very often. To those who were focused of the ever so sweet Dolly Pardon's plastic surgeries instead of her message of love and grief -- get a life!

  • Val dee | January 30, 2012 6:17 PMReply

    In the midst of so much going on in todays world, it was wonderful to spend a day at the movie and be entertained. I am sixty three years old and I left out of the theatre with a little bounce in my step, as the credits were rolling, I was still enjoying the great soundtrack. Some language could have been left out along with the sexual inuendos, but all in all, I thought this was a great movie, and I want to see it again with the full sound effects you won't appreciate on dvd.

  • Addy | January 23, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    Just two days ago I took my mom out to see this movie and we both loved it! I thought it was cute and Dolly and Queen did good together! We enjoyed ourselves at the movie! I liked the moral to the story and I'm big on music so I enjoyed that too (:! I'd recommend people to go see it, I thought it was worth it.

  • Denise | January 21, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    Just finished watching this movie with my mom--horrible. I had such high hopes for it; I like Queen Latifah, as well as the other actors in the movie, but between the awful writing (undeveloped characters) and shoddy directing, it was a huge disappointment. It was as though the director couldn't decide what the focus of the movie should be. The only reason I didn't walk out was because someone else paid for me to see it. I do not recommend anyone paying to see this movie; wait until it comes to your local library and rent it for free.

  • Norm | January 17, 2012 3:22 AMReply

    "An Awful Noise, er Joyous Accident, uh, DC Cab 2", How about "Rhinestone, Part Deux?"...Dolly who is by my estimation, has run out of plastic surgeons, really needs to stop exploiting herself.. A gifted song writer and singer has no more excuses to do film...Maybe Spielberg can use her in "Super 8 Extra", The Not So Super Sequel." Queen Latifah just needed another paycheck, to show us her lack of acting ability. Maybe the soundtrack is salvagable,at least you don't have to watch a CD...Throw the rest away..

  • jan | January 16, 2012 5:08 PMReply

    It was a great movie, fun uplifting and with some postive messages. The singing and acting, as well as the storyline was entertainment, the sub love plots were great. The music was great and Dolly and Queen, along with the casts did a great job acting and entertaining.

  • April | January 16, 2012 9:21 AMReply

    Wonderful movie!!!!! It made even my 7 year old laugh. The movie had humor, love, sadness, abandonment and even a child with a disability. When the movie was over several people clapped. It's been a long time since I went to a movie that made you clap. I Plan on buying the DVD as soon as it's available.

  • Karen | January 15, 2012 11:40 PMReply

    This movie was great. Sometimes one just has to go to a movie and enjoy it in the moment. This movie will pleasantly surprise and delight anyone that is just willing to chill out and give it a chance. I give it 4 stars and two thumbs up. I am a multi genre music and movie star fan and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. Thank you.

  • Lori | January 15, 2012 5:56 PMReply

    Excellent movie!! Would recommend for everyone to see - not only is the music amazing - but the story line is realistic to what normal, middle class rural communities deal with.

  • Jen | January 14, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    It was a grrrrrreat movie!! I want to see it again!!

  • Pat | January 14, 2012 11:44 PM

    Jen, I'm glad you like this movie because I hated it. Seriously, it was pure agony sitting through this awful flick. From opening scene to closing finale, this thing sucked so bad I cant believe it. Dolly Parton is a national treasure for sure but unfortunately Dolly's face is so frozen with god knows what holding it up that its hard to look watching a car accident right before your eyes. Queen Latifah is a queen allright, QUEEN BITCH! She plays a strict, spouse abandoned, angry, bible thumper with a chip on her shoulder. Dolly and Queen combine together to form much less than the sum of their two parts. The dialogue was inane and the plot, a joke but the acting, that was worst of all. I'm still mad I had to sit through this awful movie ...but my wife enjoyed it....go figure.

  • Deby | January 14, 2012 4:44 PM

    This is an awesome movie - everyone can go see it without worrying about F-bombs. I loved it and will see it again and plan on buying the DVD when it comes out! The audience applauded after it was over!

  • Brian | January 13, 2012 9:46 PMReply

    I certainly am not going to see this thing. Judging from the trailers, it looks like the kind of sugar-coated corn that's calculated to please everybody, but pleases no one except the brain-dead.

  • Val | January 14, 2012 9:25 PM

    If everyone based their movie choices on a few scenes from a trailer, no one would bother going to ANY modern movie. If that's your position, Brian, I have to wonder how many brain cells you still have.
    It's called ENTERTAINMENT ! and 'Joyful Noise' IS entertaining, if you have half a brain.

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