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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Joyous tunes soar in musical movie

The new movie musical, “Joyful Noise” takes audiences on an inspirational journey filled with soul-infused pop, love and the will to dream.
Set in present-day Georgia, this film toys with powerful emotions as the story unfolds, leaving audiences amazed at the talent of the cast and the relationships between the characters.
When choirmaster Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) passes away, his wife G.G. (Dolly Parton) becomes bitter when the choir council chooses choir member Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) to replace him. Meanwhile, Vi Rose’s spirited yet overprotected daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer), is smitten when G.G.’s grandson, Randy Garrity (Ithaca College alumnus Jeremy Jordan ’07), comes to visit one of the choir’s rehearsals. After hearing Olivia’s voice during the rehearsal, Randy is equally smitten with her.
Though the choir is presented as a gospel choir, the music they sing throughout the film is predominantly pop music, featuring songs from Chris Brown, The Beatles, Usher, Michael Jackson and more. This is misleading and takes away from the fact that the competition they’re preparing for is gospel-oriented. The only time when gospel music is sung is during solo performances without the choir, such as Vi Rose’s solo, “Fix Me Jesus.”
Todd Graff’s clean direction and writing has a family-friendly feel to it despite a few moments of explicit language. His writing emphasizes the inspirational appeal of a story about teen love and the drive to follow your heart, but the lackluster chemistry between Palmer and Jordan inhibits Graff’s goal. However, the dynamic between Parton and Latifah is humorous, wacky and fun. Latifah brings her signature sassy attitude and Parton brings her feisty personality to the continuous battle for power, especially in a restaurant where all hell breaks loose when a vicious food fight between the two erupts, resulting in a ridiculous, comedic brawl.
While the storyline is cheesy, predictable and comparable to that of “High School Musical,” the vocal talent makes up for the lackluster plotline. Jordan, a BFA musical theater graduate of the college, showcases his amazing tone throughout the film, but his natural Broadway musicality is hindered through some unneeded auto-tune. Jordan effortlessly debuted his voice to an audience much larger than the 1,000-seat theaters he is used to. Having performed in the recently closed Broadway musical “Bonnie and Clyde,” Jordan brings his talents to another stage with ease, most notably in the song “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
The supporting role of Vi Rose’s son, Walter Hill (Dexter Darden), who has Asperger’s syndrome, enhances the film with his warm, sincere relationship with Randy. Though his role is relatively small, Darden effectively portrays the innocence of a child who doesn’t understand his surroundings. Through music, Walter finds purpose, adding to the inspirational factor of the film.
“Joyful Noise” is a warm, heartfelt comedy that follows aspiring singers young and old and will bring audiences to their feet, getting them to dance to the music of today and generations past.