"Joyful Noise" brings plenty of noise, but very little joy.
Directed by Todd Graff, who helmed the underrated "Bandslam," this is nothing more than spare parts culled from better films and crammed together, a messy hodgepodge that tries desperately to jell but fails to rise above its limitations.
"Joyful Noise" tells the story of a small Georgia choir trying to win a national competition. When the choir director dies, the church turns to Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) despite the objections of the eccentric G.G. (Dolly Parton).
The rivalry is intensified when Vi Rose's daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) and G.G.'s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) strike up a romance.
The cast tries hard, but it's stuck with a script in which most of the dialogue sounds like it came from fortune cookies.
The silly dialogue is just one problem with Graff's screenplay, which piles on a wild series of subplots. In one scene, you have Vi Rose dealing with her son's struggles with Asperger's syndrome. In the next scene, you see how the current economic struggles have crippled this small town and how much this competition means to the population. (I'm still searching for the answer to this storyline. How will this change the town's fortune? Is there a financial prize that is never mentioned?)
Randy's character feels like he walked in out of "Footloose." There is a subplot with one of the choir members looking for love that is played for laughs, but just feels weird - especially in a film that is trying to appeal to families.
Even with all these storylines, Graff still wedges in several musical numbers that grind everything to a halt. The songs aren't really gospel tunes either, with most of the musical numbers involving covers of artists ranging from Michael Jackson to Chris Brown. It all feels so "Glee"-ish.
Then again, if you ever wanted to see Dolly Parton do a version of a Brown song, this is the movie for you.
If not, outside of Palmer's performance, I can't really see any other reason why you would feel the need to spend two hours with "Joyful Noise."
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is "The Ides of March" (B), a compelling but flawed political drama written and directed by George Clooney.
This is a movie that has a lot of things going for it, but it loses some of its punch because of a plot turn that - while necessary - slightly cheapens the material.
"Ides of March" stars Ryan Gosling as Stephen, an idealistic staffer for a Democratic presidential candidate named Mike Morris (Clooney). Morris is on the verge of capturing the nomination, and perhaps winning the presidency, but is at a key moment in his campaign - trying to take the battleground state of Ohio.
When the campaign starts to take a turn into dirty politics - the rival campaign manager Tom (Paul Giamatti) offers Stephen a position with his candidate - Stephen finds himself re-examining his own beliefs and taking a more jaded look at the man he idolizes.
This is a fascinating look at politics, with Clooney making the most out of a strong and very talented cast.
Gosling, Clooney and Giamatti are supported by strong work from Philip Seymour Hoffman as the campaign manager for Morris, Evan Rachel Wood as a young intern, Marisa Tomei as a reporter covering the campaign and Jeffrey Wright as a senator who could be the key to a Morris victory. Everyone is up to the challenge here, bringing a film that has a wealth of interesting characters with compelling dialogue.
Unfortunately, "Ides of March" takes a plot turn about halfway through that nearly undermines the whole thing. But the twist doesn't completely throw the film off the tracks and is a very important development to precipitate Stephen's transformation.
The problem is that the plot device feels like a storyline that belongs in a soap opera, not a political thriller.
I'll say again that I understand why the film takes this turn, and to its credit, it doesn't completely jump the rail once it does happen. I just wish Clooney could have found another way to get to his desired destination.
"Ides of March" is rated R for pervasive language and is now available on DVD.
- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at email@example.com.