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Movie review: Joyful Noise

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Andrew Dittmar

Staff writer

If the idea of seeing Dolly Parton break dance to Usher’s “Yeah!” sends shivers down your spine, then you most definitely won’t want to miss “Joyful Noise”.

Set in a small Georgia town hit hard by economic recession, “Joyful Noise” stars Parton and Queen Latifah as two feuding women who are brought together by the Divinity Church choir. The film opens with the death of the choir’s former director. Latifah stars as Vi Rose Hill, a single mom who takes over the director position. Parton stars as G.G. Sparrow, the former director’s widow who is all too happy to bring her own perspectives in revitalizing the choir’s musical image.

The choir takes a position as a spirit-riser in the town when they reach the semifinals in the National Joyful Noise Competition. Between Vi Rose’s desires to keep the choir’s music traditional and G.G.’s desires to liven things up, a feud erupts.

The Vi Rose-G.G. rivalry might seem clichéd in almost every aspect, but between both women’s larger-than-life onscreen personas, and Parton’s uncanny ability to sell even the most cheesy of lines clichéd works.

If Latifah and Parton don’t have enough screen presence for a casual movie-goer, Keke Palmer (Akeelah in “Akeelha and the Bee”) and Broadway’s Jeremy Jordan take their mandatory places as teen love interests. Palmer is Vi Rose’s teenage daughter, and Jordan is G.G.’s grandson, whose onscreen pairing is a clichéd obligation, but the two manage to create strong enough chemistry to sweep the viewer up in the ride.

“Joyful Noise” really succeeds in its musical numbers. Staged like “Glee” gone Gospel, the film is fortunate enough to have a cast that succeeds without the demerit-like curse of AutoTune. Parton’s brief performance of Chris Brown’s “Forever” proves why the 66-year-old country veteran has been a constant musical presence for 45 years (she owns it more than Brown ever has). Parton also delivers a lovely self-penned ballad, called “From Here to the Moon and Back”. Palmer and Jordan duet on Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”. And, of course, Parton’s aforementioned break dancing to “Yeah!” brings a whole new meaning to gospel music (And Usher, for that matter).

With all the clichés, corniness, and predictability, “Joyful Noise” manages to succeed in making us forget why we probably should hate it. You simply can’t walk away from it frowning.

And you may want to plan a spring break trip to Dollywood.