OK, so it’s corny.
I still liked it. For the
believer, especially, it features some astounding aspects seldom seen in
modern cinema: sincere faith, ongoing
church participation, a choir that rocks, a minister who, though human, is
still recognized as an authority figure and not some hypocritical sleazeball,
good-natured humor, and some lovely sacred music, sweetly delivered.
OK, so there’s a few slang words, and a little uncomfortable teenage
rebellion, and some small-minded small-town parochialism.
Get over it. These are the
necessary counterpoints. We 21st-century
churchgoers can hardly ask for more out of an increasingly secular and cynical
Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton play a
couple of small-town matrons on a collision course.
They’ve sung in the same church choir together for years, but their
esteemed leader---Kris Kristofferson, whoda thunk it?---dies, suddenly, and
while his wife, G.G. (Parton) would like to assume his responsibilities, the
Pastor, and the Board, pick Vi Rose (Latifah) instead, thinking she can take
the choir to the next level in the annual competition. (Never mind that church
choirs rarely compete, considering that it’s not a performance, anyway,
it’s their offering to the Lord----which, by definition, doesn’t need to
be compared to other’s offerings.) But
the looming competition, of course, encourages everyone to work together
harder, and also to look realistically at what they’re missing---come to
think of it, competing might be a good thing for many church choirs.
In pacing and format, “Joyful Noise”
feels like an old-fashioned musical. Every
once in a while, right in the middle of the dialogue, somebody is likely to
break out into song. And we have a lot
of talented singers to enjoy---notably Keke Palmer and Josh Jordan, who
together are also the main love interest (thank goodness we’ve moved past
even noticing the fact that one is black and the other is white).
The real issue here is that Vi Rose thinks that G.G.’s grandson has
been around the block too many times to be a good candidate to court her
precious, innocent baby girl. Vi
Rose’s husband has been in the Army, mostly overseas, and she’s had to do
the child-rearing herself, which has been particularly difficult for her son
with Asperger’s---but now she’s self-reliant to a fault, because she
doesn’t seem to listen very well to anyone around her (which is also part of
the reason her husband re-enlisted). Yes,
we need some relational tension to offset all that saccharine.
“Joyful Noise” is predictably a
showcase for established stars Latifah and Parton---each get solos that
clearly do not advance the plot, but just plain give them the opportunity to
perform---but “Joyful Noise” clicks best when the whole choir sings,
because they’re unafraid to be exuberant together.
The musical arrangements vary from traditional sacred to smooth pop,
but it’s altogether wholesome, and very pleasant to the ear and eye.
Of course it won’t win any Academy Awards, but who cares?
This is truly a family movie where the Christians are actually
presented in a winsome light. And
that’s one worth noting.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,