Riding on the coattails of the TV series Glee Joyful Noise is the story of a small town gospel choir competing to be the best in their field. With Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in the lead, great music, strong voices and a mix of beautiful and quirky young singers you’d think that Joyful Noise has the perfect combination to be a fun-filled film. But a bit like Dolly Parton’s wardrobe it only ends up being a little bit tacky and gaudy and sadly lacks the charm that Dolly has to make it work.
The story is simple; when the choirmaster Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) dies Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) decides to name Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) as his successor, sidelining Sparrow’s widow GG (Parton) in the process. Loyalties are split but while the two main characters try to work it out a Romeo and Juliet scenario develops between GG’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) and Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer).
As the story plods along the choir practises to compete in the final sing-off concert, Parton and Latifah fight, sing and dislike each other, Jordan and Palmer make-out, sing and rebel against the rules. But nothing feels real; the scenes are often over-acted and the dialogue is dull, self-deprecating and always unrealistic.
The last big number comes as a surprise when suddenly bit-players have interesting solos but have otherwise only feature a few minutes throughout the film. But then this fits into the messy stitching that holds the plot together.
Another surprise is the fact that although she is forever present on our screens and in our ears it has taken Dolly Parton twenty years to return to the big screen in a lead role, why she chose GG in Joyful Noise is anyone’s guess.
All in all Joyful Noise is filled with good songs, bad lip-synching, a tired love story and many dull moments. The only thing that save’s this film from being a total fiasco are the two young rising stars Jordan and Palmer and the two real live divas Latifah and Parton.