This small town song-and-dance number is by no means perfect, but it's peppered with just enough southern sass, to make it work.
"God wouldn’t have made plastic surgeons if he wanted them to starve", says Dolly Parton in just one of her many battles of ferocity with Queen Latifah. While the movie attempts to balance their personal battles as longstanding members of the Sacred Divinty Choir with the choir’s progress towards a national championship, it is ultimately wildly uneven.
Dolly Parton is GG Sparrow, recently widowed after her choirmaster husband (Kris Kristofferson) dies suddenly. She expects to be the successor to his position, but the pastor (Courtney B Vance) appoints her rival, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah).
Just to exacerbate the tension between the warring women, GG’s handsome but rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan), comes to stay and takes a shine to Vi Rose’s almost supernaturally beautiful daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer). All this is set against a relatively low-drama road to the choir attempting to boost the morale of their recession-stricken town Pacashau, just to give the film a plot.
All characters are neatly paired in predictable social or romantic couplings, and none are terribly well defined, but that doesn’t wholly spoil the sugary, affectionate fun of the film. Maybe it’s the heavy Vietnam-era flavor of a lot of the songs but there’s something deliciously old-fashioned about Joyful Noise which balances out the uncomplicated, join-the-dots approach.
That Parton and Latifah are the backbone of the film is as predictable as the plot itself: their exchanges sparkle and brim with chemistry. Parton is typically good-humoured, especially in relation to her appearance, and Latifah gives a strong, occasionally rather moving performance as a single mother working two jobs, struggling to relate to her teenage daughter. Keke Palmer deserves a mention since her voice, acting and looks combine to make a young actress headed for something huge.
Although Joyful Noise is by no means perfect, it is innocently gleeful enough, and peppered with just the right amount of southern sass, to make it work. As manufactured, saccharine and unsubtle as Parton, but who’s to mess with a winning formula?
Terrible title, but Dolly and the Queen can do no wrong.
The guiltiest of pleasures.
A little hollow, but still fun.