The film is an unbearable slog of a film that shows no craft whatsoever in both its filmmaking and musical performances. At two hours, the film felt like a freaking eternity and the filmmakers show no sense of pace or momentum. The film is an inconsistent and narrative mess that never tries to validate its plot, characters, or motivations across the board. It is hard to believe how poor a piece of filmmaking this picture is and I was regretting my morbid curiosity in checking this film out before the first act was over.
It only gets worse from there though. A movie steeped in gospel music and church going southerners is bound to get preachy, but for a while there I didn’t think they were going to go there. Boy was I wrong.
There comes a point in the film where the son of Vi Rose, played by producer Queen Latifah, comes to his mother and asks why he is the way he is; he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Dexter Darden (who gives the film’s best performance, even if he takes his character’s emotions to a level I don’t think a person with Asperger’s would be capable of) delivers a wonderful monologue about why he hates God and how it is unfair that God has made him this way, and everything Darden says is true. His mother’s loving response; “God doesn’t make mistakes.” The bull shit response of the infallibility of our supposed maker is supposed to be accepted in the face of an honest and fair line of questioning? And one wonders how people become atheists. And before you begin to write my review off as some God hater, this was just the shit icing on top of the shit pie that is the film itself. I loathed this film before God got involved; and it’s nowhere near my biggest issue with the film.
Vi Rose has to work two jobs, her husband has left her and she is financially strapped raising two kids, but she is still a bible thumper for the man upstairs; open your eyes lady. I don’t think winning a silly singing competition with horribly arranged re-mixes of pop music and gospel lyrics is going to make my life or the town’s all that better.
And with when it comes to the town therein lays one of the most annoying aspects of the film. They don’t even try to give us a picture of what this town is like and when the film tries to sell its emotional finale on being for the betterment of their small town it doesn’t remotely work. The choir’s victory might make some people smile for a day or two, but it isn’t going to pull every corner shop in town out of bankruptcy now is it. Add in characters acting completely out of the script’s desire to create drama by irrationally treating other characters radically different than just a moment ago and you will be shaking your head for most of the film’s two hour run time.
Then there is the music, a bunch of poorly rearranged pop hits that would never make the cut on Glee; which the film is unabashedly stealing from at every turn. Ethnically diverse choir, check; Michael Jackson song, check; young love relationship drama controlled by means beyond their own, check; it’s all there except done poorly and with worse choreography. Seriously, the choreography was horrendous. The final musical number was the highlight of the film, where they almost got something right, but it never comes close to redeeming any of the awfulness on display here.
Queen Latifah produced the picture and you can tell. Her character, Vi Rose, is streamlined for sympathy and they give her all of the film’s “big” moments, with a couple sprinkled off for Dolly Parton and her awful turn in the picture. The film is constantly trying to pull at your heart strings with sappy musical numbers (“Jesus Fix Me,” ugh) or bringing back dead characters for emotional waltzes and none of it works. It falls hardest when it constantly tries to weasel in these old southern adages at almost every turn (are they real or original? I have no fucking clue) and I found myself wanting to, “scratch my eyes out like a wild, freckled, country varmint on a salty summer’s night, it was a Thursday.” (See I can write nonsense too)
I could go on and on, but that would only be further punishment to me and you. Who am I kidding; you stopped reading about this terrible film long ago. If you made it this far and still want to see this, God help you.
Joyful Noise is an F-