Judge Brett Cullum loves Dolly and the Queen, but can't feel the spirit of this gospel version of Glee.
Dream a whole lot louder.
Take one of America's most beloved country stars and pair her with an urban hip hop legend. Put them in a comedy that uses the best parts of Glee, but place them in church so that Middle America can feel safe and sure about the moral content. How could you lose? Joyful Noise should have been a smash hit, but instead goes flat under the weight of what could have been.
Facts of the Case
A small Georgia town has fallen on hard times, and the only source of hope is the local church choir. Unfortunately, their director has just passed away, and the new director (Queen Latifah, Bringing Down the House) is squaring off with his widow (Dolly Parton, Nine to Five) for control, as the group heads to competitive nationals. To make things more complicated, the daughter (Keke Palmer, Akeelah and the Bee) of one is falling for the grandson (newcomer Jeremy Jordan) of the other. Trouble dead ahead!
The plot is pedestrian, everything is predictable, and there's not much new here to hold our interest. Sister Act or any given episode of Glee captures more soul and joy than Joyful Noise. The biggest problem is that the film wants to please everyone, but instead overstuffs its way to ludicrous levels of mediocre. There are way too many plots, and the church choir is chock full of stereotypes that never convincingly interact. It's a total mess of a movie, as writer/director Todd Graff (Camp) can't seem to decide which story or character to focus on throughout its two hour runtime.
Joyful Noise has two saving graces: 1) seeing the still charming Dolly Parton on the big screen nearly two decades after her last big role, and 2) seeing Queen Latifah stand next to the country legend and hold her own. She may be known for her rap legacy, but Queen takes to the gospel numbers as if she came up through the church choir circuit. The musical interludes work because you have two ridiculously talented superstars anchoring them. Whenever the choir starts up, we know a slick arrangement will do what the rest of the film can't: find the soul in country and rock.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition, the transfer is crisp and cool with a nice balance of natural flesh tones and vibrant color accents. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix delivers a softness of dialogue and a punch with the songs. In terms of bonus features, we get a full set of making of featurettes that cover the inspiration for the film, a look at the leads, and a live peek at a song performed in front of an audience. We also get extended song sequences, deleted scenes, a standard def DVD copy, and ultraviolet digital copy.
Joyful Noise isn't something to shout hallelujah over, but channeling the Glee / Smash formula generates some redeeming moments. The rest is painful; Dolly and Queen deserve better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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