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Movie Guy

January 13, 2012

‘Joyful Noise’ makes for great music but mediocre movie

— c“A Joyful Noise” isn’t a very good movie, but it’s hard to be too disappointed by a film that piles on one gospel music sequence after another. I love contemporary gospel music, and so it’s an odd feeling, watching a film that is decidedly mediocre in acting and story construction, but also completely appealing whenever the music takes the screen. I was thoroughly entertained by this movie. I was also more than a little disappointed.

This is the story of two women struggling for control of the Divinity Church Choir. Opinionated firebrand, G.G. (Dolly Parton) is the widow of the choir’s former leader (Kris Kristofferson) and assumes that she will be the next director following his death. The church pastor chooses Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) instead, which causes the two women to clash over the type of music that the choir should be performing. G.G. wants up-tempo contemporary hits while Vi Rose favors traditional gospel numbers.

Things go from bad to worse between the two women when G.G.’s nephew, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) arrives and shakes things up. Randy has a beautiful voice and an ear for great music, but he’s also got an eye for the ladies, including Vi Rose’s young daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer). Now the two women who already don’t like each other get to squabble over the budding romance between their teenage kin. It all starts to look like the Baptist version of “Romeo and Juliet,” although you can be assured that things won’t end with tragedy this time around.

It’s all squeaky-clean fun here, including the romance between the young performers, but that sanitizing also means that the film is without any serious conflict. It makes for a drama without much emotional appeal. Dolly and Latifah do their best to carry the film on their very charismatic backs, but they really aren’t given much to work with. Mild catfights can only go so far to entertain the audience.

The music is the obvious reason to buy a ticket to “A Joyful Noise,” especially if you’re a fan of contemporary gospel. If you like Kirk Franklin (he has a cameo in the film) then you’ll probably want to raise your arms in the air every time the music starts. My favorite number is a choir reworking of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” that left me truly moved by it’s emotional power.

With that in mind, I suggest that you think of “A Joyful Noise” as a great concert CD that also happens to have a mediocre story to connects all the music tracks. In the future, you may want to skip past all those acting moments and simply play the great musical numbers.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.

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