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The small town of Pacashau, Georgia, has fallen on hard times, but the people are counting on the Divinity Church Choir to lift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition. The choir has always known how to sing in harmony, but the discord between its two leading ladies now threatens to tear them apart. Their newly appointed director, Vi Rose Hill, stubbornly wants to stick with their tried-and-true traditional style, while the fiery G.G. Sparrow thinks tried-and-true translates to tired-and-old. Shaking things up even more is the arrival of G.G.'s rebellious grandson, Randy. Randy has an ear for music, but he also has an eye for Vi Rose's beautiful and talented daughter, Olivia, and the sparks between the two teenagers are causing even more friction between G.G. and Vi Rose.
For more about Joyful Noise and the Joyful Noise Blu-ray release, see Joyful Noise Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Courtney B. Vance, Jesse L. Martin, Kris Kristofferson
Director: Todd Graff
» See full cast & crew
Joyful Noise Blu-ray Review
Not enough! Not enough! Not enough loooove! Not enough! Not enough! Not enough loooove!
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 1, 2012
Few things ring as hollow as manufactured inspiration... other than manufactured spirituality that is, which isn't as easily defined as it is easily identified. It isn't necessarily one thing that helps identify it either; such theatrics often hitch a ride on the backs of talented people with good intentions. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions -- so they say, and for good reason -- and it's as true of Hollywood as anywhere else. There's no doubt Joyful Noise is meant to inspire, draw its audience closer to God, and bring churchgoers to their feet in praise and worship. But writer/director Todd Graff fails miserably; not just by preaching to the choir, but by failing to deliver a remotely coherent sermon, a functional musical, or a stirring story. Oh, the film's toe-tapping, hand-clapping blend of pop, gospel and more traditional songs will leave some crying "can I get an amen?" Most people, though, will feel their hearts hardening early and often, even the Sunday Morning faithful who head for a pew every time the church opens its doors.
Joyful Noise opens as a smalltown church choir director named Bernie Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) dies in the weeks leading up to the regional finals of a national choir competition. At the funeral service, the church's pastor (Courtney B. Vance) sits down with Bernie's widow G.G. (Dolly Parton) and informs her that the board has decided to elect a new choir director: no-nonsense single mother Vi Rose (Queen Latifah). I should stop right there for a moment -- less than five minutes into the movie -- because it's there that Graff and company completely lost me. Never mind the fact that G.G. and Vi loathe each other. Never mind the fact that a day later Vi tells G.G., the grieving widow, exactly what she thinks of her. Never mind the fact that Bernie, as the callous pastor suggests, would want the show to go on. But let's break this down bit by bit. A pastor decides that a funeral service is the best place to inform a distraught woman that, one, she isn't getting a position she feels she deserves; two, she'll be watching someone she despises fill her husband's shoes; and three, he'd appreciate if she took it all in stride since her financial support is all that's keeping the lights on at the church. G.G. pushes back, without a tear in her eyes for dear ol' Bernie, before she's scolded like a child and told the board has spoken. Ouch. Then there's Vi, with whom we're expected to empathize but who, for no discernible reason, has no problem lashing out at a widow who just finished burying her husband, a man who was supposedly Vi's dear friend and mentor. Not that Vi or the choir members seem all that shook up by his sudden departure...
And it only gets worse from there. Graff struggles with which storyline he wants to focus on: G.G. and Vi's feud, Pastor Dale's grudge against modern Christian music, the Romeo and Juliet love affair between Vi's solo-slinging daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G.G.'s bad-boy grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan), the plight of Vi's Asperger-stricken son Walter (Dexter Darden), the trials and tribulations of being a single mother, G.G's adjustment to life after Bernie, the choir's march to the national finals in Los Angeles, Vi's fusion of old and new styles of music (think Sister Act without the witness protection program or the Catholicism), or any one of the many subplots involving random choir members. (My favorite? Choir choreographer Earla (Angela Grovey) shares a night of passion with fellow singer Mr. Hsu (Francis Jue). Hsu, in turn, dies in the night, prompting Earla to tell Pastor Dale she's frightened men will think twice before sleeping with an angel of death. Pastor Dale frowns, Earla fears the worst, a younger, healthier man eventually sweeps her off her feet, and Earla lives happily ever after as the choir harlot.) It doesn't help that the performances are awful; Hallmark Channel at best, Lifetime Movies at their worst. Queen Latifah has a few standout moments (her arguments with her daughter are particularly strong), but Parton hits the same three twangy emotional notes over and over again (stock grief, stock irritation and stock tough love), Vance is shockingly stiff and stagnant, Palmer and Jordan flounder when a song isn't being sung, and Grovey can't keep a beat with Graff's dialogue, much less nail the comic timing her misadventures in sexual manslaughter require.
But what really burns my britches -- that's how you channel classic Parton, kids -- is that for all God's name is dropped, for all Vi and the choir go on and on about singing for God rather than for themselves, for all their desire to worship and acquire something greater than a competition victory, Pastor Dale's church choir forgets to practice what it preaches. The entire time I was watching Joyful Noise I couldn't shake the feeling that I was actually watching an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras, a reality show about pageant moms who lose sight of everything that matters in their quest to vicariously win a crown through their daughters. Pastor Dale is concerned with three things: church finances, winning, and winning without depleting church finances. G.G. and Vi, for all their talk, never actually walk much of a walk. Even when Vi goes off script and addresses a Los Angeles crowd, explaining the real reason they should be singing, she unleashes a pre-packaged modern mashup of songs that isn't about her Lord and Savior at all; it's about winning the competition, beating rival choirs into the ground (including one filled with immensely talented kids), and being the best. Around. Cause nothin's ever gonna keep her down. Sigh. The music isn't even that good. The final number pales in comparison to the teen choir performance that precedes it, Parton's showpiece song is shoehorned in, and the choir arrangements don't break the new ground Vi and the others believe. (Again, Sister Act did it all twenty years ago, and it isn't even that great of a film.) There's very little to like about Joyful Noise really, even though I'm sure a few Deep South choir members will just... hold on, let me dust off my best grandmotherly Georgian drawl... will just love, love, looove the spitfire n' grits that sweet lil' angel Dolly Parton brings to the screen. God bless her heart.
Joyful Noise Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is perfectly fine. I wouldn't call it perfect per se, but perfectly fine'll do. The film's warm sun-tea colors are lovely, primaries are strong and vivid, black levels are deep and inky, skintones are naturally saturated, and contrast is, for the most part, pleasant and consistent. There are a few murky scenes, when the curtains are drawn and the moon dips behind the clouds, and a slight softness presides over David Boyd's photography. But none of it is cause for concern. Detail ranges from serviceable to gratifying, and closeups are refined enough to make more than a few shots stand out. The choir performances aren't as striking, but between the stage lights, dazzling flashes of red and purple, and blinding spots, it's to be expected. Thankfully, the presentation is free of any encoding issues. Artifacting and banding are kept to a bare minimum, ringing and aliasing aren't factors, and minor crush is really the only thing worth mentioning. Otherwise, Joyful Noise looks pretty good; probably as good as it could.
Joyful Noise Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Don't expect to be overwhelmed. Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track certainly makes its share of joyful noises, but the film is largely a conversation-driven drama, with very little in the way of enveloping environments or immersive show-stoppers. The rear speakers do a nice job of conveying a sense of space, particularly when the choir competes in the finals at a large Los Angeles venue, but directional effects are limited, interior acoustics are only mildly convincing, and the film's musical numbers are the only things that take advantage of the full soundfield. LFE output is restrained but eager to please (again, especially when the music kicks in), dynamics are decidedly decent, and there just isn't much to complain about. There isn't much to get excited about either, mind you. But the track accomplishes everything it needs to. Any shortcomings trace back to the film's sound design, not the studio's lossless mix. Dialogue is intelligible, carefully centered and well-prioritized (without a lost line to be found), Mervyn Warren's music and Dolly Parton's songs are fittingly engaging and involving (technically speaking at least), and every beat, bark and bellow comes through as clearly and cleanly as it should. It isn't going to leave you cheering wildly, but it won't leave you grumbling either.
Joyful Noise Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Joyful Noise Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
For all its good intentions, Joyful Noise falls flat, delivers little, and isn't inspiring, uplifting or, truth be told, very spiritual at all. Even churchgoers and choir members will be left with a stale taste in their mouths, wondering how a film that speaks so highly of God could be so disconnected from His actual message. (I'm guessing Jesus wouldn't have been too thrilled by choir competitions, pastors willing to devote money to charter bus rental fees instead of impoverished African villages, or followers tripping over each other to out-praise and out-worship the next church. But I'm sure there are a hundred churches that would vehemently disagree.) Warner's Blu-ray release is a solid one, though -- with a strong video transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track -- even if it is short on meaningful special features. Ultimately, I would highly recommend renting Joyful Noise before committing any serious cash. Even if you're prepping for your next Sunday morning solo, you may not enjoy what Graff, Parton and Latifah are serving.
Joyful Noise: Other Editions
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Joyful Noise Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Joyful Noise Blu-ray - March 2, 2012
This June, Warner Home Entertainment will bring Joyful Noise to Blu-ray. Director Todd Graff's musical-comedy stars Dolly Parton (Straight Talk), Queen Latifah (Chicago), and Keke Palmer (Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion) in a tale about a small town redeeming ...
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