For the last two months, the trailer for ‘Joyful Noise’ has been playing before what seems like every screening I’ve been to. I’ve been dreading the prospect of actually watching ‘Joyful Noise’ since I saw the trailer for the first time. Because the movie turned out to be even worse than the trailer makes it out, the purpose of my review today is to get you to avoid this horrible movie at all costs.
This is what you’re made to believe the film is about based upon the trailer: Queen Latifah leads a church choir that always chokes before qualifying for Regionals. (Wait, isn’t that the plot of every episode of ‘Glee‘?) But then a young city kid with attitude joins the choir, and the pastor is forced to give them another shot. So they take their show on the road to ‘America’s Got Talent’. Latifah and Dolly Parton fight along the way.
What’s the movie really about? The choir’s director (Kris Kristofferson) has a heart attack onstage. Despite being his widow and a major contributor to the church’s funds, Parton is not given her dead husband’s role – Latifah is, so an obnoxious catfight ensues. It’s only made worse when Latifah’s innocent daughter falls for Parton’s loud and annoying grandson from the city. The majority of the movie is about the heightened character drama, not the choir’s progress. Lots of arguing and unnecessary drama follows, and it’s never – not once – funny. Jokes make no sense and fall flat. The movie is filled with lines like, “She’s looking at him like he’s a piece of delicious pie – the kind that sets in your stomach for nine months.” What the hell does that even mean? When it’s not playing like a melodrama, that’s what you can expect. Nonsense. Oftentimes, dialog has nothing to do with the scene at hand.
‘Joyful Noise’ is the type of movie that grinds on your nerves, never doing anything that it sets out to do. For example, we constantly hear about how the choir needs to keep advancing to get to the finals, yet we never see a single of its competition performances until the climax. Even though we see them at one of the competitions, we don’t see them perform. Instead, we see their arch-rival’s entire performance. The only time we see our choir perform before the finale is when they rehearse. The movie is filled with music, but only when it doesn’t count. And each time it breaks into song, buckle down because it doesn’t cut to the next scene until the song is completely finished – even if it’s the rival team’s performance.
At my press screening, two things made the viewing worthwhile. The first was having MSN critic Jeff Vice point out that Dolly Parton and her unnaturally wide mouth resemble a rejected Muppet. Every time she was on-screen, all I could imagine was a Muppeteer’s hand bobbing inside that head of hers. The second was an innuendo-filled line that Dolly Parton sings that resembles lyrics from ‘Walk Hard‘: “I’ll blow you … a kiss.” Every critic and dirty-minded audience member was chuckling before she even moved on from the long pause.
It only took two weeks into January to give us this, our first zero-star movie of the year.