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Joyful Noise (Blu-ray)
Oscar® nominees Queen Latifah ("Chicago," "Hairspray") and Dolly Parton ("Transamerica," "Steel Magnolias," "Nine to Five") star in Alcon Entertainment's and Warner Bros. Pictures' "Joyful Noise," a funny and inspirational story of music, hope, love and renewal. 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 (Latifah), stubbornly wants to stick with their tried-and-true traditional style, while the fiery G.G. Sparrow (Parton) thinks tried-and-true translates to tired-and-old. Shaking things up even more is the arrival of G.G.'s rebellious grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan). Randy has an ear for music, but he also has an eye for Vi Rose's beautiful and talented daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer), and the sparks between the two teenagers are causing even more heat between G.G. and Vi Rose. If these two strong-willed women can overcome their differences and find a common voice, they–and their choir–may make the most joyful noise of all.]]>
The larger-than-life personalities of Oscar nominees Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah help to buoy Joyful Noise, a lightweight comedy-musical about two strong-minded women who clash over the direction of a small-town church choir. The friction is set in motion by a surprisingly callous bit of business, in which Parton is informed by her pastor (Courtney B. Vance) that the church board has planned to deny her the position of church choir director, recently vacated by the death of her husband (Kris Kristofferson), in favor of Latifah. Never mind that the announcement is made at Kristofferson's funeral service, where one might assume that even a woman with such inordinate spunk as Parton might be in a state of grief; it's one of never-mind-the-details-let's-get-to-the-singing decision that writer-director Todd Graff (Bandslam) makes throughout the picture, which renders much of the film's many dramatic elements somewhat facile. And there are quite a few elements from which to choose, including a romance between Parton's cocky grandson (Jeremy Jordan) and Latifah's daughter (Keke Palmer), Latifah's Asperger's-afflicted son, or any of the genuinely silly issues involving the choir members. Joyful Noise is ultimately a mess of loosely connected elements that viewers are asked to accept in a particularly haphazard arrangement, but for many, the storyline will be a tolerable bridge between musical numbers, which admittedly are the film's strongest selling point. Thankfully, these are in good hands, with veteran producer-composer Mervyn Warren (The Preacher's Wife) handling the score and gospel powerhouse Kirk Franklin in the cast, and both Parton and Latifah get to display their formidable vocal talents. But it's a long and largely tiresome slog to these moments, which may have viewers making frequent use of their player's fast-forward button. Extras on the Joyful Noise Blu-ray are also fairly slim, with talking-head interviews with Graff and his stars balanced by extended musical numbers and a live clip of the cast and singers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. --Paul Gaita