Let’s get one thing straight. I did not want to go and see Joyful Noise. When the trailer came out, I shared it on Facebook with friends as a big joke, “look, Keke Palmer and Queen Latifah are singing with Dolly Parton, could anything be more ridiculous?” But lo and behold, my 18-year-old sister Grace dragged my mother and I kicking and screaming to the theater. While still corny and a little but preachy, joyful noise was a pleasant surprise to even the most skeptical of critics.

Joyful Noise is the story of a down on their luck gospel choir trying to win a national competition in LA. However, there is still a little romance side plot involving the rebellious teenage grandson of G.G. (Parton) and Vi Rose’s (Queen Latifah) conservative daughter, as well a fairly honest portrayal of the hard economic times we live in.

Having been raised by a good southern mother, I could never insult Dolly Parton. She is the hardest working woman in Hollywood and has a huge fan base for a reason. I also thought her performance as a grandmother and choir member in this movie was respectable (it wasn’t 9 to 5 but what can you do).

More impressive than her acting, however, was her singing and songwriting. The songs in this film (some of which she wrote) were heartfelt, original, and crossed many genres.  My sister immediately went home to download the soundtrack, and I was forced to listen to the songs for the movie over and over again. Taking a cue from Glee, (yet hardly as irritating) there are a few mash-ups featured. But more than that, there is a lot of good, classic gospel music, as well as songs such as “Man in the Mirror” with a gospel twist.

Truly a family film, this movie appeals to many generations. With a love story for the grandmother, mother, and daughter featured in this movie, every generation has something to relate to.

On the teenage end of the spectrum, Keke Palmer brings half of her possible charisma to a character that is supposed to be reserved. Putting the naturally gregarious and outgoing Palmer in the role of a wallflower is like putting someone in a jacket that is a size too small. It will still work, but it constrains and feels uncomfortable. This is what it is like to watch Palmer in this role, you can see her naturally effusive self through but her characters shy personality restricts her. Hopefully in the future she will choose roles that are move suited to her personality.

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, apparently has all the sass for the whole family, but with none of the fun. As the functionally single mother of son with autism and a daughter, her life is not easy. But she rules with such an iron fist and high moral standards that you end up disliking her in a way that restricts the ability to connect with the character. In their attempt to give her character depth, we instead see a sort of Jekyll/Hyde like character emerge–is she nice? Is she mean? Who knows…

Although the characters are a little one note, and the film tends to be sabotaged by its overly preachy nature, it is saved by its good soundtrack, and positive message. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first date night film but if you are looking for a piece of feel good fluff to watch with your family, this is a solid choice.

FINAL GRADE:  B -

Reel Film News Movie Review by Anna Flickinger

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