The film stars and was produced by Queen Latifah as Vi Rose Hill, a conservative quasi-single hard working mother of two teenagers living in a small recession-hit Southern American town. After the death of the town’s Gospel choir leader, Kris Kristofferson (barely having enough screen time to merit the ‘And Kris Kristofferson’ credit), Vi Rose is made choir leader over Kristofferson’s wealthy widow G.G. Sparrow (played by Dolly Parton in full ‘Dolly Parton’ style). Wanting to finally win the choir Nationals to boost the spirits of their ailing town, Vi and G.G. are on opposite sides to the argument of modernising their Gospel set. Vi’s 16 year old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) is the choir’s star singer and her mother worries that the influence of G.G.’s grandson, the ironically named Randy (Jeremy Jordan) will cause her good girl to go bad. Adding into the mix is Vi’s son Walter (Dexter Darden) who has what appears to be occasional Asperger’s syndrome along with a town population that creates a racial Christian utopia in a Southern American State.
Joyful Noise as a musical includes as many songs as it can, though with many following so closely together that they begin to blur together. Queen Latifah reminds us of her musical roots and her charisma as a performer and when Dolly Parton sings, it is clear that she has more talent in her acrylic nails than most people will ever posses.
Unfortunately the script is a complete mess with dialogue that feels cobbled together from a rejected first draft. The film never finds its direction, dropping one story line almost in mid sentence but striding with misplaced confidence onto to the next scene.
Joyful Noise has its heart in the right place but it hamstrings itself with unintentionally ludicrous, clunky dialogue. Dolly Parton is sorely underused especially as the film comes alive whenever she is given more than just background screen time. Some scenes are inexplicably staged: examples include the funeral scene with none of the dead man’s family sitting on the front row or Chronicle-style telekinesis being the only explanation for a couple possessing hands-free mobile phone footage of themselves.
Joyful Noise might be joyful but it is, unfortunately, mostly made up of noise.
But Dolly Parton is still wonderful.