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Joyful Noise

Gail Choice | 1/11/2012, 5 p.m.

There was so much going on in this film I don't know where to start. Wait a minute! Yes I do...the singing was phenomenal. The film definitely lives up to the title-- "Joyful Noise"--and it is a delight to the ears.

"Joyful Noise" stars Oscar nominees Queen Latifah ("Just Wright"), and Country legend Dolly Parton ("Steel Magnolias") as rivals in a church choir in the small town of Pacashau, Ga. The Divinity Church Choir is hoping to lift the spirits of their economically starved hometown by winning the National Joyful Noise Competition. But first they have to come together as brothers and sisters.

Things heat up after the death of Choirmaster Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson), and Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) is selected as choirmaster over G.G. Sparrow (Parton) the wife of Bernard Sparrow, who is also the patron saint, so to speak, of the church, which is headed by Pastor Dale, played by Courtney B. Vance.

To make matters worse, Vi Rose wants to continue in the way things have always been done when it comes to the choir's performance, but G.G. and the rest of the choir is ready for change.

They believe they always lose choir competitions because their songs are not contemporary.

Things begin to turn around, however, when G.G.'s rebellious, dropout grandson Randy, played by Jeremy Jordan, who is making his film debut, comes to town.

This bad boy not only turns the choir around, but Vi Rose's uptight daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) falls for him, just like that. He's so tough that the town 'player,' who confidently hits on Olivia, crumbles after a brief scuffle with Randy and Vi Rose's son Walter. Oh yeah, Walter suffers from Asperger syndrome, which makes it difficult for him to communicate, but you guessed it, Randy found a way to help him blend in. And he even convinced Olivia that she can dance, and showed her how.

This film has so many story lines you don't have one particular character that stands out, and that's too bad.

Usually Queen Latifah's characters are wise and loving, and in the end you're always cheering for her. This is a sharp departure--she's bitter, mean-spirited, hard-working, closed-minded. You want to like her, but it's just not there. Latifah's character did have a moment when her daughter, finally breaking out of her shell because bad boy Randy, took her on an unexpected road trip which opened Olivia's eyes to her mother, or so she thought. Anyway, Olivia confronts her mom, and what comes out of her mouth deserves a beat-down.

Latifah's character does let her have it. The daughter comes out of left field, accusing her mom of being jealous of her because she's pretty! What? Throughout the movie I kept asking who wrote this? "Joyful Noise" was written and directed by Todd Graff.

Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: if you think this is a Christian-type movie, it's not. Yes, they sing wonderful, contemporary Gospel songs, but that's where it ends. It's an outrageous and raunchy film for mainstream 14-year-olds. Here's a spoiler alert: it's in keeping with TV's "LA Basketball Wives," "Love & Hip Hop" and the other reality shows that feature women going to blows. Hold on to your hats!

There's some Godspeak in it, but with all the antics going on you just don't buy it.

The writer even threw in a scene that supported what they believed the results of a national study revealed: that Black women and Asian men were the least desirable when it comes to dating and marriage. Well, "Joyful Noise" fixes that. In theaters Friday.

Gail can be reached at gail@hollywoodbychoice.com