I don’t consider myself a particularly stereotypical gay man, but that all changes when it comes to Dolly Parton, who has the innate ability to bring out my inner screaming queen.
I’m oddly unashamed about my love for Dolly Parton. Therefore I’m more than a little excited about the fact that Joyful Noise brings her back to movie screens in a starring role for the first time since Straight Talk in 1992. It’s not a completely triumphant return but the film is quite fun.
Dolly plays G.G. Sparrow, whose choirmaster husband (Kris Kristofferson) dies right in the middle of a choir competition. While she wants to be put in charge of the singers, the job goes to Vi Rose (Queen Latifah), someone G.G. doesn’t see eye-to-eye with. The choir is used to getting to the regional finals and no further, but possible salvation comes in the form of the rockier music of G.G.’s bad boy grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan). Vi Rose isn’t impressed with this and wants to stick with the traditional tunes. She’s even less enthused by the fact Randy has eyes for her daughter (Keke Palmer), someone she’s overly protective of.
As the finals approach, tempers flare and there’s plenty of music. As you might expect from this sort of movie, everyone has a challenge they need to overcome and there are some authority figures (mainly the preacher) who don’t have much truck with this modern music. Can they all finally come together to win the big choir contest in LA and bring hope to their downtrodden town? What do you think?
Writer/director Todd Graff has become a bit of a specialist in slightly cheesy but charming and unashamedly sentimental movies, which have a strong musical element. His first was Camp, about kids at a musical theatre summer camp, then there was Bandslam, about a teen band trying to win a big competition and now Joyful Noise.
The film is undoubtedly rather predictable, sometimes a bit silly and often pretty treacly, but its heart is absolutely in the right place. It’s the sort of film some will hate, but if you like movies that set out to put a big smile of your face, tug at your heartstrings and then pile of the sentimentality for a syrupy feel-good ending, it’s a lot of fun. For my sins, I am one of those people.
There’s also a lot of good music, with the talented cast given the opportunity to show off their skills with a score that takes in everything from classic African-American spirituals to Usher, and just about everything inbetween. As it’s all fairly well-known music, there’s definitely a bit of a Glee feel about the whole thing, with a dash of Bring It On and a liberal sprinkling of Sister Act.
It’s a bit unfortunate that the enjoyment is slightly lessened by the rather uneven tone and the fact quite a few scenes, while fairly enjoyable on their own, don’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie. The problem is partly that it tries to fit a bit too much into the running time (something that was also true of Graff’s earlier movies), and so each storyline has to go from extreme to resolution too quickly to fully work. Indeed it could have done with having a couple of the smaller subplots taken out and the runtime cut down.
Even so it’s good fun and will put a smile on many people’s faces. You do need a penchant for sentimental silliness to get the most of it, as well as a love of people singing at every given opportunity, but if you do you’ll love it.
Overall Verdict: Slightly uneven and undoubtedly cheesy, but if you like musicals and sentimental movies with a big soppy ending, this will do the trick.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac