From the opening scene of the Queen Latifah/Dolly Parton vehicle Joyful Noise — wherein a racially-diverse Georgia gospel choir complete with full musical accompaniment belts out pitch-perfect praise to the Lord above — it's clear that this film is about one thing and one thing alone: singing. Even as Dolly Parton's onscreen pastor husband (a none-too-noticeable cameo from the great Kris Kristofferson) passes away immediately after the primary musical number's conclusion, the focus of the film shifts to that of song. After all, death is only something for the dead to worry about, right? At least it is in this particular Christian neighborhood.
And I mean immediately, too: right after the funeral is wrapped up (or under, perhaps), Dolly begins to butt heads (or breasts, if you prefer) with her co-star over who is to lead the now headless community choir — a spot that the new pastor (the great Courtney B. Vance) has bestowed upon Queen Latifah. From there, it's your average story of musical rivalry, as Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton make snide comments to one another — an enmity that ironically occurs in many a Christian community — and which escalates when Dolly's grandson (Broadway performer Jeremy Jordan) arrives from the city and falls for the Queen's daughter (Keke Palmer).
Various dramatic moments come and go throughout this fast-paced film, few of which linger with their protagonists longer than a couple of minutes after they have concluded. Its almost like a weekly program about faith and family was condensed into one feature film, with all of the genuine emotions removed for the sake of timing. In short, despite all of the hearts it tosses at you, Joyful Noise is surprisingly hollow — a great example is when Jordan befriends Latifah's autistic savant son --played by Dexter Darden — their bond is established, and the film budges to another subject, abandoning the subplot altogether.