- Running time:
- 117 minutes
- Queen Latifah -
- Vi Rose Hill
- Dolly Parton -
- G.G. Sparrow
- Keke Palmer -
- Olivia Hill
- Jeremy Jordan -
- Randy Garrity
- Courtney B. Vance -
- Pastor Dale
Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) are the dueling divas of Divinity Church Choir, forced to table their differences to find a winning strategy for the National Joyful Noise Competition. Victory in the choral showdown would be a boost for their economically savaged small town of Pacashau, Georgia. Not helping ease the tension: G.G.’s rebellious grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan), who blows into town from New York City and promptly sweeps Vi Rose’s goody two-shoes daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) off her feet.
The buzz: Teaming hip-hop icon Latifah with country icon Parton in a gospel musical sounds either inspired or insane. The result is up to writer-director Todd Graff, whose previous films “Camp” and “Bandslam” also dealt with music and teens—meaning that, yes, Nickelodeon star Palmer (“True Jackson, VP”) and stage actor Jordan will be just as prominent as their more celebrated older co-stars.
The verdict: Anyone hoping comedic sparks fly between Latifah and Parton will get what they want—in one scene (a restaurant food fight face off prominently featured in the trailer). Otherwise this overstuffed and undercooked slice of inspirational hokum chokes on an abundance of subplots (as if tough times in a small town, teenage love triangles, and the singleton dilemmas of a lovelorn choir member aren't enough, Latifah has an absentee military husband and a son with Asperger’s). The corny dialogue ranges from sassy putdowns (“I’d call you stubborn but that’d be an insult to mules!”) to down home bromides (“God don’t make mistakes and he ain’t about to start with you”). But there’s a saving grace: whenever Graff sets aside the plot and allows the music to take over, his movie truly sings. Fortunately that’s fairly frequently, from the rousing Parton-penned opening number “Not Enough” all the way through enough reverently incorporated pop, gospel and originals to suitably showcase all four leads. Good actresses with great screen personas, Latifah and Parton are underserved by the film’s slipshod narrative but perfectly utilized in their centerpiece musical numbers (gospel standard “Fix Me Jesus” for Latifah, and another original, “From Here to the Moon and Back,” for Parton). Palmer and Jordan don’t always hold the screen quite as well with their tedious on-and-off courtship, but they’re both appealing performers with strong voices (featured together on a duet of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”). Everything culminates in a giddy grand finale that plays right to the film’s strengths: singing, dancing and spiritual uplift.
Did you know? Graff discovered Jordan when attending a performance of the Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” which just happened to be the night Jordan actually made it on stage as an understudy for former “American Idol” Constantine Maroulis.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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