As if 2012 wasn’t off to a bad enough start, with theatergoers enduring early January’s The Devil Inside. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse than that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you another piece of evidence as to the term “dump month” with Joyful Noise. As it turns out, Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah are not a match made in heaven when it comes to dueling choir members in this film set in the backwoods of Georgia. But if you think they are, this film is for you. I seriously fear any film this year that winds up being worse than this. I’ll admit that I actually like both Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. Unfortunately, this is far from the days of 9 to 5 and nowhere near Chicago.
To make a very long “story” short, in Pacashau, Georgia, G.G. Sparrow (Parton) has just buried her husband, Bernard (Kris Kristofferson). He was the show runner of their town’s beloved Divinity Church Choir. The members of the choir have aspirations to make it big and win the “Joyful Noise” competition. Now the church, lead by Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) has decided to hand over the reigns to Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) against G.G.’s best interests.
Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (duckbilled Keke Palmer) thinks that to win they should try to incorporate hipper music into their antics. Soon enough, G.G.’s grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) shows up, falls in love with Olivia, and teaches Vi Rose’s son, Marcus (Jesse L. Martin), how to control his Asperger’s by playing T-Pain’s “I’m in Love with a Stripper” on the piano. But now Pastor Dale thinks it costs too much to send them to Los Angeles to win the big competition so G.G. and Vi Rose must come together to make everything work out in the end.
What writer/director Todd Graff has managed to craft here is a film that seems entirely made up of deleted/alternate/extended scenes. Not one transitional scene is on display. Everything literally just bounces around from one thing to the next and with many scenes dragging on for an eternity. There’s even a scene that’s obviously cut from an earlier scene used later as if it’s a whole new day taking place within the film (pay close attention to what characters are wearing). Graff also thinks that a wacky subplot involving choir members Earla (Angela Grovey) and Mr. Hsu (Francis Jue), where she kills him after a night of premarital sex due to his high blood pressure, is just the kind of padding an already far too long film needs.
Why spend nearly 10 minutes showing the choir’s competition at regional’s then skip their own performance to show them all on the bus ride home complaining that they lost? Why did they lose? Did Dolly pop a boob? Did her face unstitch? Thankfully, we’ll never know. Unless those scenes show up on the Blu-ray release. If the fault lies with editor Kathryn Himoff, she needs to be run out of Hollywood for cobbling together an even worse film than she was originally handed. I can’t even imagine what the film was like before she got her hands on it. And we all know that Dolly’s getting old, but that’s no excuse for filming the entire movie in soft focus. Plus, she still looks like a Muppet version of herself.
I seriously have no idea who this film is made for. I know a lot of people like to turn their brains off to watch some flicks, but this one requires a lobotomy to comprehend. During an argument between Vi Rose and Olivia, the scene drags on so long you forget what they’re even fighting about. All you know is that the music is trying to cue you in that it’s supposed to be emotional and their tears are trying even harder to sell it. But, buy into you should not. Additionally, you should avoid buying a ticket to Joyful Noise at any cost. At one point, Pastor Dale talks about how he “didn’t make this economy,” but if this is the kind of entertainment folks are spending their money on, then maybe it’s deserved to some degree.
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