“Joyful Noise” is a full length film version of an episode of “American Idol”, except with gospel choral groups as opposed to individual acts.
Starring Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan, the movie revolves around a competitive church choir that needs to spice up their act in order to get over the top in their annual competition. In truth its an excuse to string together full length music videos, as the surrounding film is wholesome and sanitized to the point of almost being unwatchable.
It’s almost as if they expect that the audience will think something is great just because they include a lot of music.
The central premise, I expected. All you have to do is watch the trailers, and you’ll quickly be able to see that the vocal performances would be central to the film. You know you’re signing up for a string of singing segments, complete with close-ups and crane shots.
It’s not a “musical” per se, though, in the traditional sense of the word. When I think musical, I think of lyrics supporting the story and original songs. These were simply vocal performances of modern songs with lyrics occasionally tinkered with in order to fit the spiritual context.
It’s like they just took a bunch of songs and strung them together.
That much, though, I expected. What I guess I should have figured is that, being a church choir, the movie would have a distinct religious flavor to it. There’s a lot of churchin’ going on, lets say that…
But the aspect of that that I found grating was the sanitized, paint by numbers, insulated moral environment they created for this movie in order to make it suitable for viewing, I would presume, at church. It’s a world where a “trouble” making teen gives piano lessons to a boy with a personality disorder, keeps his hands off the hot teen girl, joins the church choir and is respectful to his elders. It’s a world that’s supposedly so “trying” on Queen Latifah, and I just had to shake my head wishing a real problem on these people. Even her son, who suffers from Asperger syndrome – seems pretty normal and easy to care for, to me.
It’s irrelevant really… the movie is an exercise in getting to the next musical segment.
I suppose there’s some humor here and there between Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, but the movie is much LESS an attempt at comedy than I expected. I expected that the movie would be a comedic battle between the two of them over the direction of the choir. All of that is essentially boiled down to a scene or two in order to make room for the puppy lover romance between Parton’s grandson and Latifah’s daughter. Kind of like Romeo and Juliet without the fighting, classic writing, or suicides. And of course, lots of Mother Daughter bickering (although the one scene where they really let it fly is undoubtedly the high point of the movie).
They’d actually have been better served really focusing on the transformation of the choir. They don’t. They show the struggles Latifah is going through to keep her family under her thumb, but they never really show the choir moving from point a to point b. They’re lame, rocking side to side and clapping in one place one minute. Then they practice one move (The “Pop”), add a guitarist (which is given 4 seconds of runtime) and then bam. They’re this breakdancing, high production value well oiled power choral group.
The setting was wholesome enough to make Opie Cunningham roll his eyes, the songs weren’t THAT great, and what should have been the central heart of the film – the hard work it takes to organize and produce a high-profile gospel performance – was given a criminally short shrift.
I’m sorry. You can’t JUST include musical bits, and have your audience think it’s awesome.