MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Joyful Noise

U.S.: Todd Graff, 2012

 Joyful Noise — in which squabbling small town Southern gospel divas Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton take their small town Georgia church choir to the improbable finals of the National Joyful Noise Competition in Los Angeles — is really two movies: one good, one bad.
One of the movies is a set of rousing gospel and ‘60s-‘70s rhythm and blues numbers socked across by the so-called Pacashau Sacred Divinity Choir, under the feuding leadership of co-divas Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) and G. G. Sparrow (Dolly). And that musical half rocks and rolls with such show biz fervor and exaltation, such smoking songs and funky toe-tapping accompaniments, and such a boatload of talent headed by Dolly and Latifah, that the movie gets you to respond (and enjoy yourself) despite yourself. The other is a truly idiotic small town soap opera — or dramady or comma or romcom or whatever — in which the actors pelt each other, and us, with cornpone clichés and phony show biz baloney, just as lustily and pointlessly as G. G. pelts part-time waitress Vi Rose with hot biscuits in the restaurant foodfight scene, Joyful Noise’s stupidest.
One of these movies (the musical half) is entertaining. The (the story half) other is ridiculous. One is Joyful. The other is Noise.
 It’s too bad you can’t take a DVD remote into the theater with you and jump this movie past the clichés and the tommyrot — though part of the rest of the audience might start singing your praises. In any case, we never learn exactly why this integrated but combustible choir — from a church so dinky it might have trouble fielding a basketball team — got good enough to make it to Los Angeles, especially since Vi Rose and G. G. keep up a running verbal/insult/busybody battle from the moment Vi Rose gets appointed by a Pacashau’s smug preacher man, Rev. Dale (Courtney B. Vance) to the choir leader post G. G. thought was hers by right, since her hubby Bernard (Kris Kristofferson) was, after all, the previous director.
In a way, Kristofferson makes the definitive comment on the movie‘s storyline (if not its music) by grabbing his side during the first song and keeling over dead outside the church. (Don’t worry. We can sense a ghostly duet with Dolly in the offing, though not, thankfully, of “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”)

Soon after Bernard’s death, a hell-flock of clichés and inanity begins invading Joyful Noise like Hitchcock‘s birds invading Bodega Bay. On and on they come, shamelessly, screechily, devilishly — including a stormy romance between two talented young Sacred Divinity songbirds, Vi Rose’s dedicated daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G. G.’s grandson, the aptly named Randy (Jeremy Jordan).

There’s an odd subplot (for a movie about a church choir) in which unromanced singer Carla (Angela Grovey) proves to be the kiss of death after a night of bliss (played for laughs) with the hapless but apparently weak-hearted Asian choir member Mr. Hsu (Francis Jue), who loves her not wisely but too well, and not for long either. There’s the movie’s juicy or would-be juicy dialogue, including Vi Rose’s incessant jokes about G. G.’s plastic surgery and Dolly‘s crack about how trying to fool her is “like trying to sneak sunrise past a rooster.” (I’ve heard that one — on “Hee Haw,“ I think.) There‘s that amazing aforementioned restaurant brawl — my nominee for one of the worst waitress movie fights ever (and a disgrace to the memory of the toast scene in Five Easy Pieces) — where the two stars scream and toss or duck biscuits almost in slow motion, with little initial interference from the boss.

One of the more amazing things about the Pacashau Sacred Divinity choir is their repertoire, which includes at various points Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,“ The Left Banke‘s “Walk Away Renee,” and a final killer contest medley that starts with Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take you Higher,” and climaxes with Stevie Wonder‘s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

Hey, I love these songs too, but are they gospel? Will songs like these, even if they win contests, money, fame and glee in L. A., ever fit in with stuffy Rev. Dale‘s sermons? Maybe Stevie Wonder could make it in with a little revision — “Here I am, Lord God! Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours!” But does writer director Todd Graff (who’s guilty of both Camp and Bandslam) know what kind of “higher” Sly Stone was talking about, when he told us he wanted to take us there? And what if somebody tries to sneak some James Brown (“Get Up, Like a Prayer Machine”) Chuck Berry (“Johnny (and Matty, Markie and Lukie) Be Good“) or Rolling Stones (“Let’s Spend Eternity Together”) into the mix?

I jest. I apologize. The movie is funnier anyway, which may be the justification for its ridiculous half. At any rate, if you wait for the DVD — the special Joyful Noisemaking edition with maybe a deleted Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin scene — you‘ll be able to jump from “Walk Away Renee” to “Maybe I’m Amazed” to “I Want to Take You Higher,” without having to worry about stumbling into any more food fights or heart attacks. You may be able to enjoy the music and avoid, thank God, the movie‘s God-awful plot medley of clichés and banality and outrageous nonsense, or most of it anyway. Is that like trying to sneak sunrise past a rooster? You be the judge.


Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon