Sunday, January 15, 2012

Joyful Noise: Will The Church Say, "Amen?"

Picture it! 2011...Choir practice at a thriving A.M.E. Church (that's African Methodist Episcopal for you non "church" folk). The ensemble is rocking, clapping, singing "in the spirit." Sitting on a pew listening is a young man. Inspired by what he's heard, he surprisingly jumps into the aisle and shouts, "Make a joyful noise up in dis bitch!"

And that described scene is what makes "Joyful Noise," Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton's new church-themed film, a little edgier than most films in this growing category. One other factor that makes it stand out is its great mix of secular and religious music in the genre Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary are now famous for--speaking of which, he's in the film.  But traditional gospel fans don't fret, there's some oldie-but-goodies thrown in too for good measure.

What's interesting throughout the film is the underlying theme of diversity on various levels. There's interracial relationships, the combining of various styles of music from country to gospel to R&B and Hip Hop, and a mix of "good" Christian folk knowingly acting badly including fornicating. Did I say the "F-word"? Yep! Church folk don't clutch the cross so hard, ain't nothing new!  Check the old and new testaments! We all fall short right?

The story centers around the "breaking-the-rules" G.G. Sparrow (Dolly) and traditionalist, Vi Rose Hill (Queen) who are forced to work together to help the choir win the national "Joyful Noise" competition.  If you're thinking "Sister Act 2" keep thinking it! Still, the two work well together on screen to bring the drama, some laughter, and great musical performances.

My only complaint is Dolly's nips-and-tucks, NOT in her well preserved face, but in her choir robe! The altering of her choir robe to accent  her curvy figure constantly reminded me I was watching the award winning country singer Dolly Parton--a woman just as famous for her big breast and itty-bitty waste as she is for her voice. But THAT'S NO DISS TO DOLLY! I'm just saying CHOIR robes are meant to bring attention to your voice not your body. However, her character's other church attire IS BANGING! The tailored suits and hats are FIERCE!

Then there's teenagers, KeKe Palmer and cutie pie Jeremy Jordon.  I knew KeKe, now 18, was a great singer and had grown up, but in my mind she was still a youngster at the spelling bee.  LAWD, to see her kissing a boy and acting grown took an adjustment. But once I made it, I thoroughly enjoyed watching her and Jeremy together. And yeah, I could tell she too was making the adjustment because she appeared to be catching up to Jeremy in their kissing scenes.

But that's no real complaint because Olivia, KeKe's role, is supposed to be less experienced in life and love than Randy (Jordon). Her newness in real on-screen kissing fit the part. It's official Keke Palmer is NOT a kid anymore! Her dramatic mother-daughter scenes with Queen are really strong, proving again KeKe is also growing up and stronger as an actress.

Randy is the redeemable "bad boy." He's musically talented and experienced, but the whole reason he ends up visiting his grandma G.G. isn't really explained. There's mention of being thrown out by his mom, yet he never calls her nor his dad. Considering the attention given to the parent-teen relationship between Vi Rose and Olivia, it seems odd to leave Randy's family background unexplored.

Speaking of Queen. I'm always amazed at how well she plays the mother role in films. She has no kids,  so where does she "pull" from? May be her own mom? Whatever it is, it works. And "Joyful Noise", is one of the best films she's executive produced that showcases how multi-talented she is in front of and behind the camera.

Lastly, undoubtedly the soundtrack and the cast are big selling points, but not big enough to get some of YOU to the theater and not wait for DVD or On-Demand.  UNDERSTAND, films like this NEED support at the box office to show the powers that be there is an audience for them.  JOYFUL NOISE may not be the film for everybody, but if enough of the people that IS for make theater registers go CHA- CHING, you'll see more films like it made.  Amen and Amen!

Listen to and download the GREAT soundtrack!


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