DIR/WRI: Todd Graff • PRO: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Michael G. Nathanson, Catherine Paura • DOP: David Boyd • ED: Kathryn Himoff • DES: Jeff Knipp • Cast: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer
With the success of television’s Glee and the resurgence of musicals in popular culture, Joyful Noise comes to cinemas carrying an agenda where the others do not. Where Glee happily makes fun of itself and its campiness, Joyful Noise has no such self-awareness. It tells the story of a gospel choir in small-town America and their fortunes in a competition known as – you guessed it – Joyful Noise. It’s a national tournament for gospel singers and their churches that takes place in Los Angeles every year. The cast, led by Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, are beset by a myriad of problems that are painfully obvious and clichéd. Queen Latifah is a struggling mother of a precocious teenage daughter. Her husband’s rejoined the Army as a means of employment and, as well as her daughter’s raging hormones, she has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome to contend with. Meanwhile, Dolly Parton’s husband – played by Kris Kristofferson – has to manage her teenage grandson and his urges as well. All while getting the choir ready for the Joyful Noise compeition.
Joyful Noise is out-and-out religious propaganda. There’s no other word for it. The film is so ardently pro-Christian/right-wing values, it’s like a campaign video for the Republican party. It even features Dolly Parton brandishing a shotgun and defending her home against an intruder. Queen Latifah’s husband has joined the Army and is setting off for Iraq so as to provide for his family. Joyful Noise‘s musical moments are so corny and insincere that it reviles the viewer. It’s built around the pretence that Joyful Noise is a real look at America and so forth, but in actuality, it’s the exact opposite. It’s how Christian Americans perceive it to be. True, there may be ‘hard’ moments for each of the characters; Queen Latifah and her son’s disability, Dolly Parton and her age/facial defects. However, the film handles them in such a kids-gloves way that it’s galling to watch. The script is laughable, to say the least. Dolly Parton speaks in Southern maxims and proverbs and Queen Latifah is always two steps away from clicking her fingers, such is the ‘sass’ that she gives in her performance. The teenagers are wooden and unconvincing and the supporting cast is forgettable.