Age restriction: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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Joyful Noise tells the story of an unlikely partnership between two strong-minded women who are forced to work together to save a small town Gospel Choir after budget cuts threaten to shut them down. Music is a very important component to the story. The larger-than-life personalities of Oscar nominees Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah help to buoy Joyful Noise, a lightweight comedy-musical about two strong-minded women who clash over the direction of a small-town church choir. The friction is set in motion by a surprisingly callous bit of business, in which Parton is informed by her pastor (Courtney B. Vance) that the church board has planned to deny her the position of church choir director, recently vacated by the death of her husband (Kris Kristofferson), in favor of Latifah. Never mind that the announcement is made at Kristofferson's funeral service, where one might assume that even a woman with such inordinate spunk as Parton might be in a state of grief; it's one of never-mind-the-details-let's-get-to-the-singing decision that writer-director Todd Graff (Bandslam) makes throughout the picture, which renders much of the film's many dramatic elements somewhat facile. And there are quite a few elements from which to choose, including a romance between Parton's cocky grandson (Jeremy Jordan) and Latifah's daughter (Keke Palmer), Latifah's Asperger's-afflicted son, or any of the genuinely silly issues involving the choir members. Joyful Noise is ultimately a mess of loosely connected elements that viewers are asked to accept in a particularly haphazard arrangement, but for many, the storyline will be a tolerable bridge between musical numbers, which admittedly are the film's strongest selling point. Thankfully, these are in good hands, with veteran producer-composer Mervyn Warren (The Preacher's Wife) handling the score and gospel powerhouse Kirk Franklin in the cast, and both Parton and Latifah get to display their formidable vocal talents. But it's a long and largely tiresome slog to these moments, which may have viewers making frequent use of their player's fast-forward button. Extras on the Joyful Noise Blu-ray are also fairly slim, with talking-head interviews with Graff and his stars balanced by extended musical numbers and a live clip of the cast and singers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. --Paul Gaita
Joyful Noise (Movie Only Edition Blu-ray + Ultraviolet Digital Copy)