By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
I’ll not say a negative word about Dolly Parton in this review. She’s a Southern treasure, if not a national one.
But her latest movie, “Joyful Noise,” is one messed up piece of filmmaking.
Written and directed by Todd Graff, the movie stars Parton and Queen Latifah as rivals who are in the same church choir.
The rivalry is amplified when the choir director (Kris Kristofferson) dies, and Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) gets the director’s job, instead of G.G. (Parton).
More trouble brews when G.G.’s grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan) falls for Vi Rose’s daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer).
All the while, the church’s choir is preparing for a nationwide competition. There’s a conflict between Vi Rose’s brand of gospel and newer forms of musical worship favored by Randy, Olivia and the rest of the choir.
Whatever potential those elements have is squandered by logical lapses that leave the viewer wondering what just happened.
A heated argument in one scene is forgotten by the next scene, and this happens repeatedly among all of the main characters. The plot makes perfect sense, but it’s hard to follow these tangled emotional threads.
At one point Vi Rose has to take a second job, but she’s a nurse and has money coming in from her estranged husband. The story doesn’t explain her need for the money.
The best I can tell is Vi Rose’s extra job is an excuse for her and G.G. to have an over-the-top argument in public. If you’ve seen the previews, you’ve seen the funniest lines the scene has to offer.
The movie never explains what’s going on between Vi Rose and her husband (Jesse L. Martin), who lost his job, joined the Army and lost all contact with his family, even though they’re in Georgia and he’s in Kentucky.
And I doubt anyone understands a subplot involving a choir member and her two Asian suitors. It left me shaking my head.
Several of the musical numbers are entertaining, but I was relieved to see the closing credits. Without Parton, “Joyful Noise” would’ve slipped into F territory, but I give it a D minus.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
Kelli Karlson, Wizard 106.7: She gives “Joyful Noise” a C minus. “If you’re going to see a Dolly Parton movie, rent ‘Nine to Five.”