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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Monthly Movie Review - Joyful Noise

Joyful Noise is a delightful little film about the political inner workings of a denominational church choir. It stars one of my favorite comedic actors, Queen Latifah, who plays Vi Rose Hill, a single mother of two teens from small town, USA.

The movie opens with Vi being chosen as the next choir director over the former director’s wife, GG Sparrow. GG is played by the quirky Dolly Parton, complete with tight waist, round hips, and big hair, and a penchant for sass that plays well against Latifah’s loud, boisterous wit. Landing the coveted position was no small feat for Vi, since GG’s habit of dangling her money in front of the pastor’s nose usually gets her what she wants. But Vi wins the day, committing to work hard and help prepare the traditional music program for the upcoming choir competition. 

GG, on the other hand, has other ideas. She wants to bring in a more secular, upbeat flair to the program so that the church can finally win a championship. As expected, sparks fly as these two ladies from very different backgrounds and cultures go head to head to take control of the choir’s road to winning a title. Case in point - when GG’s talented grandson, Randy, comes to town, GG sees this as an opportunity to infuse change, but Vi will hear none of it. Not even when Randy demonstrates his superb musical abilities.

An aside—the Randy character is played by the up-and-coming Jeremy Jordan, who is adorable and multi-talented (Tony Award nominee) and can now be seen on the TV show, Smash. With the success of Hollywood musicals of late, I predict we will be seeing more of him in the years to come, so be on the look-out!

Once Randy hears the powerful, anointed singing voice of Vi’s lovely daughter, Olivia (played by Keke Palmer), he falls hard for her and a romance blossoms. Their sweet relationship only makes Vi suspicious of his intentions and makes her dig her heels in that much more. For Vi, traditional music is the only way to properly worship the Lord, but like GG and Randy, Olivia begins to see things differently. When Olivia rebels against her mother, more trouble ensues. She reaches out to her father, Vi’s absentee husband, but that only makes things worse. In addition to that, Vi’s son Walter, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, has trouble fitting in and expresses his doubts concerning God. Despite her hard demeanor, Vi shows what a great mother she is by giving him wonderful, godly guidance and encouragement. These moments were my favorite part of the movie.

As Randy succeeds in introducing his new, popular songs into the choir’s program, Vi feels she must quit, because the Lord is not being properly glorified. With no leader and a slim chance at winning the competition, the pastor decides to withdraw the choir’s entry into the competition, claiming budgetary constraints. To GG and the rest of the choir members, a chance to compete is a wonderful opportunity to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. A last-minute plan is hatched and the choir competes. And what a terrific show it is! 

There are some very funny scenes involving ancillary characters that many may not think are appropriate for a Christian film, but admittedly, it’s hard not to laugh. I tried to bite my tongue, but failed miserably. In the more family-friendly story line, Latifah is a scene-stealer with a wonderful sequence at a hotel with Olivia where she explodes with a clever combination of seriousness and hilarity outside the hotel elevator—it is priceless. I’d see the movie again just to see Latifah “go off” at the Olivia character once more. Also, a hilarious scene in a restaurant where Latifah and Parton get into a cat fight was quite entertaining. I marvel that Dolly Parton still maintains her buxom looks after all these years.

Overall, the movie is a delightful, feel-good family film with Christian and faith-based elements, plus toe-tapping music that brings a smile to the face—especially from Latifah. It isn’t a deep, cerebral story, but it’s just perfect for a night of gentle entertainment that brings joy to the heart! Enjoy this little gem of a picture!

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