Nonstop Movies: ‘Joyful Noise’

It’s only January, but is it too early to proclaim a film the feel good movie of the year?

“Joyful Noise” stars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as two rivals vying for a choir leader position in preparation for a national song contest. It’s a fun film that will have you walking out of the theater smiling.

Parton, who’s probably known more as a punch line than an actress, has delivered strong past performances in such films as “Nine to Five” and “Steel Magnolias,” and it’s refreshing to see such a dynamic performer back on the big screen, even willing to poke fun at her image. But it’s Latifah who delivers the better performance as a single mother of two. I was expecting to see yet another finger-snapping, hand-waving act from Latifah, as shown in the film’s trailers, but she keeps the sassiness to a minimum and gives a believable, touching performance. Latifah especially shines in the emotionally heavy scenes with her children, one of whom is played by Keke Palmer, who did such a great job as the child in “Akeelah and the Bee.”

The musical numbers in “Joyful Noise” also are worth noting. A combination of hip hop, pop and gospel, the songs in “Joyful Noise” are fun and upbeat and will have you clapping along. The finale, a medley of current and past hits, is especially infectious.

With its story of a gospel choir combining pop songs with traditional ones “Joyful Noise” will inevitably draw comparisons to “Sister Act,” but it has enough unique storylines and characters to stand on its own. The screenplay could use some tightening, and the characters aren’t as developed as they could be, but the film’s emphasis on the importance of family, especially in the scenes with Latifah and Palmer, are effective and moving and more than make up for the flaws. It’s a film that will make you cry, laugh and cheer.

“Joyful Noise,” 117 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.