Film Reviews

The Godly Union of Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, Sullied in "Joyful Noise"

A holy hot mess of the sacred and the inane, Joyful Noise, about a gospel choir in Pacashau, Georgia, is Jesus for Gleeks. Less Bible-thumping than, say, a Tyler Perry project, writer/director Todd Graff's movie is still on an ecumenical outreach mission, its flatlining gags overshadowed by its focus on weightier subjects like economic calamity and Asperger's syndrome. Struggling Pacashau pins the little hope it has left on the Divinity Church's multiracial choir, once again in the semifinals for a national gospel competition and now led by Vi Rose (Queen Latifah). Brooking no sass, especially from church benefactor G.G. (Dolly Parton), righteous Vi Rose works as a nurse to support her two teenaged kids. Latifah and Parton, two effortlessly charismatic performers onscreen, are pleasing enough matriarchs, doing their best when forced to deliver nonsensical mouthfuls as country wisdom. The climactic sing-off is gaudy maximalist megachurch entertainment, and there is now a special place in hell for those responsible for making Parton sing a few lines of Chris Brown's "Forever."

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.