This is the best Christ-sploitation movie ever made for an audience outside of the Christ-sploitation circle. There’s an uncomfortable aura surrounding the expletive-filled dialogue that is nothing short of hilarious, about as “in” with its target audience as a bloody brawl down the by the quarry… which also happens.
Oh, and then, pre-marital sex leads to a funeral played for laughs, only to turn into a play on racist stereotypes. Then, you have the costume team doing their darnedest to cover up Dolly Parton, or the director trying to capture her on film without revealing her assets. They fail. Moving on, Queen Latifah and Parton begin clawing and headlocking each other while spewing hate speech, all in front of a family audience at the local diner.
It salvages Joyful Noise, putting the laughs in all the wrong places, but at least it’s watchable. Otherwise, the ho hum religious theme has been done before, the conflicts are endlessly forced (or cliche), and the subplots so crammed the film barely finds time to develop them once introduced. A choir member is watching a family business falter in the American economy, having zero effect on his emotional status, performance on stage, or the movie as a whole. The ailing hardware store is shut down in the closing moments, this during a joyous wedding celebration. Talk about a kick to the nether regions.
There’s something tranquil about how off-base Joyful Noise is, so intent on praising a higher power yet self destructing its characters. Latifah’s on-screen daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) falls in with a distrusting boy, leading to a blow up in a hotel where Latifah scores in showcasing her ability to drop “bullshit,” five times in a row. It’s as if no one involved understood the sensitivity of the viewership, treating the PG-13 rating as a badge of honor. That makes Joyful Noise look edgy, only Sister Act did the same thing and with a safer base to appeal to the demographic.
The movie ends on an unplanned stage show, where the music is so powerful, the stage hands and lighting directors keep up with an unrehearsed stage number. It’s sort of an anti-choir movie, wherein the film preaches hard work, dedication, and faith, only to ditch it all because the finale wasn’t fancy enough. Who needs to work hard when you can shred your gowns for sexier attire and pop songs? Oh, and the best part? They’re such a spiteful group, they take joy in smiting down a group of freshman high schoolers who give their all. Joyful Noise indeed. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Joyful Noise struggles on its quest for visual splendor, running into trouble spots with noise that isn’t so joyful. Hideous, offending puns aside, Warner’s encode seems to struggle with any deviation from the norm. Any raise in the thickness of the grain sends the encode into a compression tizzy, leaving the image swarming with artifacts. It’s not a mere one shot problem either.
Bringing light to the piece is a contrast that loves to bloom itself out of its confines, exaggerated to sell quaintness that doesn’t actually exist. It can overrun characters and blot out fine detail, in addition to wiping out any sense of transition between hues. Noise is already shot with a soft focus, the suffuse further creating a sense of instability and imprecision.
What works is the color palette, brightly, intensely saturated even if it props the flesh tones up further than they should be. A sense of warmth casts them with an orange glow. Primaries are hearty, and the purple choir gowns are striking. Often, the contrast will dilute exteriors beyond their capabilities to produce lively images, leaving the dress code and flesh tones to pick them up.
Deep, powerful black levels will help the piece leap out at viewers, and deliver some semblance of consistency. Nighttime scenes offer intense depth, two key emotional songs (one for each of the leads) delivering on the attempt at drama. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Driven by music, it’s odd that the sound mix comes across more like a studio recording than live performances. It adds artificiality to the sound, as if it’s more concerned with being accurate to the soundtrack than the feature itself. Gotta sell those CDs and MP3s after all.
When Joyful Noise is allowed to break out, it comes alive. Music bursts from the stereos with bite, creating an enveloping environment that is freeing. An outdoor performance shines with vividness, both the audience participation and the airy acoustics of the auditorium captured beautifully. The finale does much the same, spreading into an audio panorama that is completely satisfying. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Sparse bonus features feel restricted by their commercial nature, or in their attempts to sell the stars. Spotlight on a Song details Parton’s work and the creation of her solo song. Inspiration of Joyful Noise follows the creation process, stemming from director Todd Graff’s childhood. Make Some Noise is nothing more than an extended trailer.
Leading Ladies provides insight into Latifah and Parton’s roles, although not much considering it’s barely two-minutes. He’s Everything: Live is a performance at the Staple’s Center as a promotion for the film, hilarious sponsored by Verzion. Jesus: Brought to you by Verizon. A single deleted scene and a handful of extended songs remain.
All together, there’s a struggle to reach 40-minutes of content, and most of that is in the songs. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]