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Movie Review: Joyful Noise

January 13, 2012

Joyful Noise – A Warner Bros. Pictures’ Release

Release Date: January 13th, 2012

Rated PG for language

Running time: 118 minutes

Todd Graff (dir.)

Todd Graff (writer)

Mervyn Warren (music)

Queen Latifah as Vi Rose Hill

Dolly Parton as G.G. Sparrow

Keke Palmer as Olivia Hill

Jeremy Jordan as Randy Garrity

Dexter Darden as Walter HIll

Courtney B. Vance as Pastor Dale

Jesse L. Martin as Marcus Hill

Kirk Franklin as Baylor Sykes

Angela Grovey as Earla

Andy Karl as Caleb

Kris Kristofferson as Bernard Sparrow

Paul Woolfolk as Manny

©Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) and Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and the rest of their gospel choir in Joyful Noise.

Our reviews below:


Joyful Noise Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

The first thing that should be said about Joyful Noise, is that this is an entertaining film with its heart squarely in the right place, that delivered exactly what the trailers promised.  I was also a big fan of director Todd Graff’s last film, which was the excellent and often insightful teen dramedy Bandslam, and here he delivers the same sort of inspirational musically driven entertainment.  Some will be critical of the film, but I just had a great time watching it.

When Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) is brought in as the new director of the church choir, the recently widowed G.G. (Dolly Parton) is instantly jealous of having not gotten the job that used to belong to her husband (Kris Kristofferson).  Then G.G.’s grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to the small town in Georgia and really shakes things up.  Not only does he fall for Vi Rose’s teenaged daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer) but he also changes the way that the choir sings by encouraging them to do more popular songs.  But the choir is about to head out for a national competition, so they will have to set aside their differences and put on one heck of a show if they want to finally win the first place trophy.

The characters here are all handled respectfully, with their imperfections making them relatable and likable.  Even characters like Olivia’s younger brother Walter (Dexter Darden) who has Asperger’s syndrome are handled tastefully and believably, without ever feeling like stereotypes.  Another thing that I like about Todd Graff as a director is that he understands the importance of the musical numbers.  He often shoots them as if it were a concert film, but this is a carefully handled technique that doesn’t take us out of the story.  Perhaps this is because he has a background in Broadway.

Even though we know pretty much exactly where the story is going, the grand finale is still a rousing and inspirational musical sequence that is sure to garner applause from an appreciative audience.  In a word, the entire soundtrack is awesome.  I’ve listened to it several times before and after seeing the movie, and every time I am swept up in the pure positive energy of the music.  I just love the way that they are able to mix the gospel of Queen Latifah and the country of Dolly Parton, while at the same time putting their own unique spin on some contemporary R&B songs.  The rousing and inspirational “Higher Medley” is the perfect example of this perfect merging of genres.

Some will relentlessly mock the good morals and nice story of Joyful Noise, but these are two of the things that I liked about it.  The gospel music is excellent no matter what the context, and for two hours, I thoroughly enjoyed being swept up in the pure positive energy of the film.  The simple truth is that Joyful Noise left me with a big smile on my face, and we can all say amen to that.


Joyful Noise Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

From writer/director Todd Graff, who made the surprisingly good Bandslam in 2009, comes Joyful Noise, a film that lovers of Gospel music are going to want to see.  This was pretty much a case for me of ‘if you liked the trailer, you’ll love the movie.’

In Joyful Noise, Queen Latifah plays Vi Rose Hill, choir leader to a small town church group.  She is also the mother to Olivia (Keke Palmer) and Walter (Dexter Darden), who has Asperger’s syndrome.  At the church, Vi Rose is also always at odds with G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), who while not the leader, is able to throw her weight around at times, due to her ‘significant contributions’ (financially) to the church.  Every year the choir enters the ‘Joyful Noise’ competition, only to be shut out by regionals.  In order to try to finally make the finals, G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) tries to get the group to do new arrangements of the old songs and mix some new ones in as well, but Vi Rose just won’t have it.  The fact that Randy and Olivia like each other also bothers her, as G.G. is not her favourite person, so at first by extension neither is her grandson.

The singing is all amazing here, with the soundtrack a must buy after seeing the film (review coming soon).  All of the acting is good, both from the veteran actors and young talent.  The portrayal of Asperger’s for the character of Walter is also one of the most genuine and reasonable yet.  Todd Graff, as we saw with Bandslam as well, has a knack it seems to write what could be predictable stories with stereotyped characters, and making them neither stereotyped or predictable.  Also, despite the almost two hour running length, it never drags.  In fact, the full soundtrack (47 minutes) is played in the film, and having the musical numbers – which are amazing – in their entirety is great.  All in all, Joyful Noise is a feel good movie that by the end will leave you wanting to cheer.  I loved watching it.


Joyful Noise Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Two years ago, director Todd Graff created Bandslam, a feel good film about people brought together by music.  Once again, Graff has come out with a movie to celebrate music.  At a small town church in Georgia, things are about  to get shaken up when a new choir director, Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) is appreciated after former director Bernie (Kris Kristofferson) dies.  His widow, G.G. (Dolly Parton) is not too pleased about this, being her at odds with Vi Rose.  To make things more complicated, G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) is interested in Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer).  Though despite the conflict, Randy actually brings new life into the choir, which may be what’s needed at the annual ‘Joyful Noise’ gospel music competition.

Joyful Noise is joyful throughout.  It has great performances of both gospel music and secular songs that have an inspirational feel.  A great mash-up of secular songs in a gospel number near the end is just spectacular.  The characters are genuine, never delving into clichés or stereotypes.  One very believable character is Vi Rose’s son Walter (Dexter Darden), who has Asperger’s syndrome.  While he initially sees being Aspie as a problem, Walter, with the help of Randy and Vi Rose let him know that it’s OK to be different, and that is a good thing.  It is great to see a film that depicts Aspies in a respectful and accurate way, without stereotyping the autism community as savants with a temper.

Joyful Noise is unabashedly Christian.  While some may mock this fact, the feel good Christian message is one of the things I liked about the film.  It is great to see a film these days that talks so openly about faith, in a day when secularism is the only “accepted” belief system.  Joyful Noise is a fun movie that will appeal to its target demographic.


Joyful Noise Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Joyful Noise is all about the music – the shout it from the rooftops, celebrate and praise God Gospel music that so many people love.  And there’s a whole lot to love in this energetic and heartwarming movie by director Todd Graff.

Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) and G.G. (Dolly Parton) are members of their church choir in Georgia.  When G.G.’s husband, choir director Bernie (Kris Kristofferson) passes away, their Pastor (Courtney B. Vance) names Vi Rose as the new choir director.  G.G.’s not too pleased with the Pastor’s choice and the ongoing conflict between the two women provides some truly funny moments in the film.  Adding to their conflict is the budding romance between Vi Rose’s sixteen year old daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G.G.’s cocky but charming grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan).  As much as Vi Rose dislikes Randy, she can’t help but appreciate the way he accepts and warms up to her son Walter (Dexter Darden) who has Asperger’s syndrome.

The sub-plot about Walter’s Asperger’s syndrome is handled believably without being melodramatic or cloying.  There are also some minor sub-plots that involve other members of the choir that provide some really funny and even touching moments.  Their stories remind the viewer that even good church going folk can be tempted.  Joyful Noise doesn’t feel preachy despite being all about a church choir singing Gospel songs.

The romance between Olivia and Randy is handled nicely as is the friendship between Walter and Randy.  Vi Rose’s relationship with her two children is also believable and has some strong dramatic moments.  Queen Latifah gives a really nice performance as a working mother trying to raise her kids right while her husband, Marcus (Jesse L. Martin) serves his country.  Dolly Parton holds her own and often steals the scene as Grandma G.G.  Her character is a real hoot to watch.  Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan are also really good.

Joyful Noise had me smiling from start to finish.  I enjoy Gospel music and this delivered.  Also, I liked the story and the characters.  Like his earlier movie, Bandslam, Todd Graff has a way of creating imperfect but likeable characters who happen to have music as an integral part of who they are.

The star of this movie is without question the music.  Director Todd Graff gives us musical number after musical number each shown in its entirety.  The result is pure energetic and uplifting magic.  From the song “Man in the Mirror” at the beginning right through to the amazing mash-up of songs that the choir sings in the ‘Joyful Noise’ competition at the end viewers are treated to amazing singers and musical numbers.  Some might find Joyful Noise corny, but I found it to be pure joyful fun.  With solid performances all around and great music throughout this one gets a big Hallelujah from me.  The world needs more Joyful Noise.


Joyful Noise Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Joyful Noise is a national church choir competition that a congregation in a poor Georgia town hopes to win. After the director (Kris Kristofferson) drops dead during the opening number, his wife G.G. (Dolly Parton) is passed over as his successor by Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) in favour of Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah). Once G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to stay with her the choir will never be the same. With her husband Marcus (Jesse L. Martin) away in the army, Vi Rose is very protective of her teen age kids Olivia and Walter and her very traditional religious beliefs extend to musical style. She is wary of the flamboyant G.G. and Randy’s efforts to make the choir more competitive by broadening its repertoire, and especially Randy’s relationship with Olivia and kind support of Walter who has felt isolated by his Asperger quirks. Despite some interesting twists along the way, the outcome is predictable.

Joyful Noise shares its themes with the other two films Camp (2004) and Bandslam (2009) written and directed by Todd Graff, where an unlikely group of underdogs is inspired to overcome its obstacles to ultimately triumph. Despite its almost two hours running time, it never drags or descends into sentimentality. Even minor characters are well-drawn with flaws as well as virtues, so we are always invested in their ultimate success. The best thing of course is the eclectic mix of inspirational music, including solos by the principals and extended choral numbers by the competing groups reaching a peak with the final mashup. The film definitely lives up to its title.


Consensus: Filled with great musical numbers and appealing performances from the strong cast including Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, director Todd Graff’s Joyful Noise is a delightfully energetic film with good morals and a nice story.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

One Comment leave one →
  1. anna marie permalink
    December 15, 2014 8:45 pm

    i love your movie


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