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"Joyful Noise" - {Blu-ray} - (Ed)
Edward McNulty
Studio: Warner Brothers
Release Date:
Special Features:

See Below


This musical clunker will appeal to three groups: Dolly Parton or Queen Latifah fans, and maybe church folk--though the latter probably will be dismayed by the almost completely unrealistic way in which the life of a congregation is portrayed. This tale of a feud between two divas in the choir of an integrated southern church has lots of good, bouncy gospel music, but, as I have already said, little reality, and plenty of evidence that the scriptwriter, who borrowed the title from Psalm 66, forgot that the psalmist invited his readers to praise the Lord. In this film the choir and its talented members are the center of praise. Believers will see that it is the golden calf of the congregation, not the aid to focusing the congregationís attention on God during worship that it is supposed to be. ***

Following the sudden death of longtime choirmaster Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) at the interracial Sacred Divinity Choir of Pacashau, Georgia, his widow G.G. (Dolly Parton) becomes disgruntled and eventually leaves the choir because Pastor Dale (Courtney Vance) chooses Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) instead of her as the new music director. This leads to all sorts of complications found only in movies. The only dispute that seems real is one that has divided many congregations over the past few decades--a dispute between Vi and her 16 year-old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) over newer music versus more traditional gospel hymns. There's also a romance between Olivia and G.G.ís grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan), which is complicated by the rivalry between the two mothers. ***

What the film lacks in reality (no sense of what a congregational worship service is like), it makes up in exuberant music. It was fun to see Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah working together. But the choir competition, while providing some enjoyable moments of great singing from a number of choirs, is too much like writer/director Todd Graff''s previous musical competition films, Camp and Bandslam. ***

As stated above, all concerned seem to have forgotten that the choir is the means, not the end in a church service. The prophet Amos forcefully reminded ancient Israel that if they behaved badly, God would say to them, "Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps." (The curious can see the full text, a favorite of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, in Amos 5:21-24--didn't know you'd get a Sunday School lesson this time, did you?) ***

However, the film is a good example of moving beyond racism: even if it seems unrealistic that the church is so thoroughly integrated, the shots of the congregation show us what the church should look like on a Sunday morning, rather than the ones most Christians attend. And in what passes for a story I don't recall any objection on racial grounds to the budding romance between Olivia and Randy.

Special Features:

Spotlight on a Song: Dolly Parton's "From Here to the Moon"

Three behind-the-scenes featurettes:

- Inspiration of Joyful Noise

- Make Some Noise -

Leading Ladies Extended songs

Final Words:

Just a generation ago Hollywood movie-makers feared any screen contact such as kissing between a black actor and a white actress would lead to the banning of the film. Their concern wasn't just centered on how southern audiences would react, but on how any white audience anywhere would react. We have made some progress worth, progress that is worth making "a joyful noise" about. Of course, non-believers will probably snicker and wonder what all the noise is about. ***


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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