Musicals are not everyone’s cup of tea, and a musical filled with gospel choir performances is going to have an even harder time to get paying customers through the door.
Yet the upcoming release “Joyful Noise”, written and directed by Todd Graff, somehow manages to take a niche musical style and make the audience care about the choir members and their background stories.
It helps that Graff has cast two musical heavyweights in the lead roles of Vi Rose Hill and G.G. Sparrow; Queen Latifah plays the former while Dolly Parton makes a welcome return to the cinema to play Sparrow.
The two women are at loggerheads through most of the movies, fighting for control over the town’s gospel choir ahead of an annual competition. Eventually, both women are predictably forced to bury the hatchet and work with their friends and neighbours to ensure the choir’s survival.
Despite the sentimentality and the serious points that Graff is making about small-town America in the grip of a financial crisis – Latifah’s character plays a single mother holding down two jobs at the same time as raising her disabled son while her home town is facing the closure of the local employer – Joyful Noise really does have some genuinely joyful moments and is not afraid to tackle some of the issues that more experienced directors would steer clear of.
Inevitably considering how much of the film is set in and around the church, religion does raise its head frequently; yet storyline is never preachy and even raises some brave questions for a US film, particularly in the scenes involving Latifah’s disabled son who questions the existing of a God who would allow him to suffer.
The star of the show, however, is the Our Lady of Perpetual Tears Youth Choir who sing backing vocals on many of the gospel numbers; a musical performance that will have you tapping your toes no matter what you think of the rest of the film.