EVEN if St Augustine of Hippo never really said that those who
sing pray twice, it feels as if he should have done. It is
certainly the main premise of Joyful Noise (Cert. PG)
despite a bewildering array of sub-plots - the recession,
Asperger's, choristers' multifarious problems, etc. Most of these
we could have done without. People will go to the film for its
Given that the story concerns a gospel choir, the range is quite
catholic: country and western; rhythm and blues; Broadway musicals;
pop-music videos, etc. That's where the plot comes in, because the
pastor (Courtney B. Vance) of the Pacashau Divinity Church Choir,
Georgia, has appointed staid, humourless Vi (Queen Latifah) as new
choir leader. This comes as a shock to her arch-rival, G. G. (Dolly
Parton), whose husband (Kris Kristofferson) had led the choir to
regional level victory in a singing competition before dying.
For the rest of the film, it is handbags at dawn as Parton and
Latifah (mainly the latter) strut their stuff. Subversion takes the
form of Jeremy Jordan, who plays G. G's grandson, Randy. Not only
does he introduce secular popular music to the choir behind Vi's
back, but he dares to fall in love with her daughter Olivia (Keke
Times must have changed, because little seems to be made in
contemporary Georgia of this love match's interracial nature.
Instead, Olivia and Randy just make beautiful music together. It is
reminiscent of the ever-popular Sister Act, in that
secular lyrics are given a spiritual twist. Vi, when she finds out
what the choir has been doing, tells her daughter: "I want to hear
God through you," not just songs about me and you. She has a point.
Thus Palmer's rendition of "Man in the Mirror" becomes a plea for
repentance. Jordan rather clumsily turns the singer-composer
Usher's 2004 hit "Yeah" into a paean to Jesus.
Much dramatic capital could have been made out of the familiar
tensions between music-makers and clergy. This is under-explored,
and the pastor is reduced to dealing with G. G.'s hurt pride, and
predictably upholding conservative musical choices. In a move that
may say more about American religion than ours, Randy manages to
become ordained by means of a website. But who cares? "You can't
stop the music, nobody can stop the music."