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Joyful Noise

Submitted by MBergeron on January 11, 2024 – 10:11 pmNo Comment

Joyful Noise exists entirely to present songs presented in a powerful way and thankfully about every ten minutes someone in the cast and at times the entire cast breaks into song. The setting is a rural town in Georgia and the plot revolves around a gospel choir taking top prize in a national competition.

In no way is Joyful Noise any kind of substantial movie yet in many ways it’s an enjoyable movie. Full-on versions of songs like Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” Billy Preston’s “That’s the Way God Planned It,” and a show stopping medley of Sly Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” deliver the goods.

Stars Dolly Parton (who also wrote some of the film’s original songs) and Queen Latifah take center stage in tandem. Kris Kristofferson, Keke Palmer, and Jeremy Jordan co-star. Director Todd Graff has always had a warm place in my cinematic cosmology if only for his turns as an actor in films like The Abyss (“That was a 9.5 on the sphincter scale.”) and Opportunity Knocks. As a director Graff glosses over a lot of issues raised by the film, for instance we keep being reminded how bad the economy is yet by the film’s conclusion (set one year later) we never hear mention of the town’s many foreclosures. Still Graff adheres to the twice-a-reel song rule and keeps the whole affair percolating like a fresh pot of coffee. Actually Graff does something I’ve never seen (or heard) in a film by using the song by the 70s British group Family “My Friend the Sun,” although performed by Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey. We hear this totally unknown but awesome song in a nondigetic manner (car radio) rather than the digetic way the gospel songs are performed.

In fact a great companion film to Joyful Noise would be the 2024 documentary Rejoice and Shout, a chronicle of gospel music in the 20th century.

- Michael Bergeron

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