She Said: Joyful Noise
I have loved Gospel music since I was a little girl listening to it with my Pappaw. When I first heard that they were going to make a movie about competing gospel choirs with Queen Latifah I thought, “okay, well she’s got a great voice but I’m not sure if it will be good, because… do church choirs compete?” Well what do you know, they do! But, when I heard Dolly Parton was going to be in it I thought, “um, well Dolly’s can be rude sometimes in joking about Christianity, I hope this movie won’t be rude and mocking”. It wasn’t that it was terribly rude but it didn’t seem like a Christian movie at all. I was shocked at the amount of times that sex was joked about and when Dolly’s character said her problem was she was “too good of a Christian” I went from being annoyed to angry. I had no interest in seeing a church choir version of Glee.
The plot of the movie is lame. G.G. Sparrow’s (Dolly Parton) husband (played by Kris Kristofferson) is a choir director of small town church. Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) is the assistant choir director who gets promoted from to leading the choir after his death. G.G.’s grandson (of course he’s wayward) falls hard for VI Rose’s daughter. G.G. and Vi Rose fight over control for the choir. As if all that weren’t enough there are several other subplots- too many. Also their physical altercation made me sad and uncomfortable, it wasn’t funny at all
I wasn’t bowled over by the music. At first I thought it was pretty cool that they were using “Man in the Mirror” for a choir song, but I didn’t end up liking it. If the point was praising God (and it should be the main point for a choir) then why sing a song that doesn’t mention God at all? I used to think that using pop songs in worship was really cool. But, I had an incident lately that changed my mind. Someone at our church sang a romantic power ballad during the service. The lyrics for the song were appropriate to the sermon and we were told to really listen to them. Unfortunately, the 80’s allure of the song couldn’t be overcome for many. I saw people kissing (sorry, that’s weird during a sermon) and there were lots of giggles. I kept trying to focus on my own experience, and at the time thought it was meaningful. In the days since then, we’ve used another pop song that did not work at all. I didn’t get the song itself or it’s use. In the weeks since we sang it, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how funny or cool it was. Not how much it touched their hearts, or made them think about God’s love. I’ve heard people requesting Journey or Bon Jovi. I think that non-traditional music could be used as a tool, but I think as Christians we have to be very careful about why we use it. Are we trying to be cool? Are we trying to give people a good show?
I was appalled at the dancing in the movie because the women were practicing shaking their rear ends. How is that okay? Who wants to go to church and shimmy dance or see anyone else doing it? I think it’s fine to keep up with the times and styles in a way that’s appropriate, but I don’t think that includes any pop song (especially Usher’s “Yeah”) or booty shaking. I thought the purpose of music in church was to either help teach people something or help them life their voices to praise God. I think people sometimes want to put on a show and that’s not okay (to me anyway). I love a lot of Christian pop music (Third Day, Mandisa, Addison Road, Casting Crowns) and I know they have great concerts and I think it’s fine to perform then. But, a church service shouldn’t be a concert performance. I think the Christian community really needs to address the problem of – Who are we singing for? Why are we singing? Why do we pick the material we pick? The answer for all of these questions should be for God’s praise.
The acting in this movie wasn’t terribly great either. Queen Latifah was really good. She showed an extensive range of emotion and made her character as interesting as the script would allow. Dolly Parton made me sad. She just doesn’t look like Miss Dolly anymore. She seems like a caricature of herself in her looks and her personality. I don’t just mean because she’s older (Shirley McClaine is older, too and still gorgeous as are Julie Andrews and Vanessa Redgrave). What I’ve loved about Dolly my whole life (and growing up in East TN she was on TV or billboards all the time) was her beautiful quick smile and how animated she’s always been. I miss that. It’s so hard to see the character she was playing because all I could see was Dolly Parton shtick. Jeremy Jordan was boring, I couldn’t figure out anything about his character except he wanted Olivia. Keke Palmer was so completely pouty and sullen that I couldn’t have any sympathy or connection to her character.
My biggest problem with this film is that it’s a film about Christians it’s not a Christian film. I think that a lot of people are going to watch what they think will be a Chrisitan movie, and they are going to be seeing a badly done and objectionable piece of cinema. I understand that there must be conflict in all scripts in order to have a story. And I don’t think that everyone in a Christian movie has to be good or mostly good. But, I do think that Christian movies shouldn’t poke fun at church and that they must have a Christian message. I’ve tried to understand what the Christian message is in this movie and I can’t. I get rebellion as a theme. I get making fun of old musical and church traditions. I get throwing away substance in worship music in favor of splash and cool factor. What I don’t get is what is in any way good about this movie. I’m sure I make a lot of missteps in the entertainment choices that I make. I’m trying to be better about watching I think will be good movies or television shows. I used to want to see everything trendy or new. The criteria that I’m using now is from the Bible.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
I can’t see anything in this movie that merits my esteem. It makes me sad because I would love to see a great movie with wonderful worship music but that movie isn’t Joyful Noise.
He Said: Joyful Noise
I was very skeptical of Joyful Noise. It looked like it could be a Christian movie, but it had stars in it that typically aren’t in Christian fare. Even if not totally Christian, maybe it was going to be a much more wholesome version of Glee. The answer is no on both counts. Not only is Joyful Noise a dreadful movie, but also one that celebrates everything that can be wrong in a church, and in Christians, without any redeeming message at all.
I don’t even know where to start. Anyone in this movie that is for morality, decency, or tradition is trampled over, and ultimately forced to jump upon the sinful bandwagon. The new kid in town that swears in church, encourages a daughter to sneak out after her curfew, and gets her to lie to her mother about their relationship, is not that bad because he teaches an awkward boy the piano, and just wants to win. One of the characters boasts that her problem is she’s just too good a Christian. This same character later extorts the pastor to get her way. Even one subplot that could have been about a cute romance, turned tawdry quickly and was just used for cheap (and inappropriate) jokes for the rest of the movie. There are also several times where romantic songs are supposedly repurposed, but the characters singing them are staring at each other and making it about themselves instead of each individual and God. Every time this movie could have been sweet, or given heart, or talked about Jesus, it instead opts for the easy, and cheap instead.
There’s something going on in this movie that is very dangerous for churches to emulate. The method that the church choir in question wins is by taking pop songs (many of them inappropriate) and if need be changing the words to be about God. There are some big problems here. If you just change the words, first of all, if you don’t have the artist’s permission (and I know they must have in this case, but most churches won’t be able to get that) then what you’re doing is illegal and wrong. Secondly, it has potential to misguide people. Someone would probably want to hear the original, and might even like the dirtier version better. Contemporary Christian music has a lot to offer, and by bypassing that entirely for mainstream Pop music, you really discredit music that is actually written about God. Chris Tomlin, Mandisa, and even Kirk Franklin (who appears in this movie) all actually make better music than what the choir ultimately chooses, so why use the junk? I think you could use mainstream music in church services unchanged, but you have to be very careful with it. I wouldn’t expect Usher to be a good choice. Even when done properly, its use can elicit giggles and dull your intended point.
This movie is horrible. I would have turned it off, if I hadn’t felt is was important to review it for the benefit of our readers. Furthermore, it’s potentially dangerous to believers who would be misled by this movie, and the nonbelievers who might confuse this movie for what should actually be going on in churches.