"JOYFUL NOISE" — ★★★½ — Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Courtney B. Vance, Jeremy Jordan; PG-13 (some language including a sexual reference); in general release
Music has power. To be good at it takes practice and determination. For those who sing gospel, there is some faith involved, too.
For the Divinity Church Choir members from Pacashau, Ga., they must also have faith in themselves. The film "Joyful Noise" tells the story of this small-town choir and the members' resolve to compete and bring some joy to their struggling town.
The choir is led by Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson). Things are going well at a regional finals competition until Bernard feels a pain and is escorted off the stage by his wife, G.G. (Dolly Parton). The church now needs a new choir director, and G.G. seems to be the perfect fit, except the church board decides that Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), who is second in command of the choir, should be moved up to director.
Vi Rose has two children, Olivia (Keke Palmer), who is 16 and sings in the choir, and Walter (Dexter Darden), who has Asperger's syndrome. Her husband has left for another stint in the military. To make things further complicated for Vi Rose, G.G's grandson Randy comes to town and wants to get to know Olivia.
The choir needs to prepare for the next level of the Joyful Noise competition, but there is some disagreement as to just how to do that. Vi Rose wants the choir to continue using the same arrangements that have gotten it this far in the competition, but G.G. wants to shake things up a bit with some new music, and her grandson has some ideas.
The power of this film comes from the gospel music. There is some feeling built into the songs, but the performers add even more. Keke Palmer has made albums before, but she has never sung like this. And if you thought Queen Latifah was just a rap star, then you have been missing a wonderful talent. Dolly Parton is fun in this film. She is able to laugh at herself and just make a scene funny with her actions.
Parents should know that there is some language, along with a sexual reference. There is a scene with a man and a woman in bed, but there is no sex. There are two physical fights in the movie, one that is serious and the other that is rather comedic between G.G. and Vi Rose.
"Joyful Noise" rises above the trailers you see for it in theaters and on TV. It will make you laugh, make you sad and make you feel joy. It's a good story of overcoming the troubles that are in front of you and seeing what can be possible.
"Joyful Noise" is rated PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference; running time: 115 minutes.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.