Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movie Review: Joyful Noise

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While she may have shown up on the small screen on Disney’s Hannah Montana as Aunt Dolly, it’s been a while since Dolly Parton has been up on the silver screen. She returned as G.G. Sparrow and co-stars with Queen Latifah as Vi Rose Hill who are two members of a small home town Georgia church choir competing in a contest which doubles as the name of the movie, Joyful Noise.

Joyful Noise Movie Poster
Typical of most choir or glee club themed movies and TV shows like Glee, Fighting Temptations or the Sister Act movies, a group is having problems getting started or having challenges reaching the next level. Along comes the new person, whether it's a director or a singer who challenges the status quo. Sometimes an unlikely candidate or candidates need to be added to round out the group. Of course this ruffles a few feathers along the way and can cause some great fight scenes. There is a particularly funny scene between GG and Vi Rose that takes place at a restaurant.

Vi Rose’s 16 year old daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer) is one of the lead singers for the choir. When GG’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) appears, he’s the thorn in the queen lion’s paw on two levels; first, he likes Olivia and he wants to change up the arrangements a bit. So Vi Rose has the pressure of replacing the beloved previous choir director, dealing with alterations to the choir and it's dynamics, a boy who is making the moves on her daughter and trying to remain calm with her autistic son Walter (Dexter Darden) who has his own special needs of Asperger’s Syndrome that have to be taken into account.

GG is surprised by the church board when they appointed Vi Rose to take over as the choir director instead of her. Disappointed that she wasn't selected, surprisingly she doesn’t turn vindictive. The choir does well every year at the competition but the journey to nationals is stymied at the regional level when they come up against a power house choir which would be Glee’s version of Vocal Adrenaline. Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia takes the lead on many songs and gets told by her mom to let God work through her when she starts to belt out Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Randy comes along and tries to put a little more musical Tabasco into the choir’s recipe book. Ultimately when they get to the big show down instead of a single song like the other competitors are doing, the group does a mash up giving each of the singers some time to shine in the spot light.

While the singing and the struggle of the choir for competition was the main focus, it wasn’t as far in the front as one would expect by the previews. There were other character drawn story lines given just as much weight during the one hour and 58 minute movie. Family troubles for Vi Rose with her special needs son and somewhat rebellious daughter, the relationship with the children’s dad, GG’s troubled grandson returning to hamlet of Pasachau which itself is having problems with the downturn in the economy and the loss of a loved one all allow interludes for the music to play and songs to be sung. What really stuck out was Dolly when they showed the choir and not for the totally obvious choice. Well, yah, they did mention that she took in her robe a bit to make it more form fitting. But really it was when asked what her favorite color was Dolly said Calirol 289 and you could really see that color stick out in the group shots of the choir when everyone else possessed brown or black hair!

On several occasions I asked myself what were they thinking of for the locations that were chosen and the flow of the scenes. Of course, being a “church” movie there were some scenes which contained some swears and sexual references to go up against the pious background to create some conflict within the plot and earn the movie a PG rating. It almost appeared that several bridging scenes weren’t rendered (the digital version of the cutting room floor) into the final cut. Despite the flaws, the comedy of the story (some at Dolly’s expense about things she jokes about all the time in real life) and the overall message and tone was meant to be uplifting and inspirational and it achieved that goal.

These Movie Monkey reviews have been about the movie going experience and lately, the experience hasn’t been all that fun. I don’t receive free passes to see the movies I’ve written about; the money has come from my own pocket and going the movies instead of being fun, has become a chore and I question if my $8.50 matinee pricing is being well spent. At the end of 2011 the news reports were about the US Box office being off half a billion dollars from the previous year. When you look at the quality of the movies and what happens when you go to the theater, for me, I understand why.

At my local Regal Theater I’ve really lost faith in them. They are supposed to be an art house location and yet the competitor in town ends up showing more art house films or even getting them before what I called my home theater, location 1828. For this particular movie, the 20 minute preshow had audio but no video. I reported it to the staff at the entrance podium just after the preshow started and it hadn’t been fixed before the preshow ended. Luckily I had my “Where’s my Water” app to keep me occupied during the preshow time. Then I and another person had to track down staff because after five minutes they still hadn’t started the show. With watching about a film a week and probably about once a month I was reporting some sort of technical problem to the staff: sound was off, scratches in the film, late starts or short stops…that would be a 25% failure rate.

During this particular show one person pulled out their cell phone FIVE times to do texting sessions and another started their vocal conversation in the theater. I will give them credit, they didn’t have their ringer on and they did leave the theater to finish the conversation. If I go to report them, I would have to leave the theater missing part of the movie and I seriously question if they would have done anything to the offending patrons unlike the folks over at Alamo Drafthouse who take talking and texting during the movie very seriously. I’ve sent comments via their contact us web page and via their Facebook page to either receive no response or have the posting deleted.

With that said, at this time I want to let you know that this will be the last Movie Monkey review that I’ll be doing as my movie watching will be severely curtailed. Whether you’ve been reading the reviews or if you’ve been listening to the audio versions on the blog page or via the podcast, I say mahalo (thank you) from the bottom of my heart for spending your time with me. It has been my honor and privilege to share my movie going experiences with you. As we say in Hawaii, a hui hou…until we meet again.

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