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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Joyful Noise

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson star in a scene from the movie "Joyful Noise."
Divas duel and a red-state Romeo and Juliet fall for each other in "Joyful Noise" (Warner Bros.).

Though it gives a pass to an incidental out-of-wedlock fling, and showcases some humor and vocabulary that make it unsuitable for youngsters, writer-director Todd Graff's otherwise uplifting celebration of traditional values emphasizes trust in God and illustrates the positive effects of compassionate and forgiving behavior.

Set in the small, recession-ravaged fictional burgh of Pacashau, Ga., this vibrant, faith-driven blend of comedy, drama and music focuses on the sometimes raucous, but ultimately friendly rivalry between Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton), two leading members of a local church choir.

Just as their ensemble is preparing to compete in the higher rounds of the singing competition from which the film takes its title, G.G.'s husband, Bernie (Kris Kristofferson), the chorus' long-standing director, suddenly dies. In his place, the pastor (Courtney B. Vance) appoints, not G.G. herself, but her nemesis, Vi Rose.

While the two jostle over whether to alter the group's repertoire and performing style—despite her enduring love for her late spouse, it's G.G. who urges innovation—G.G.'s free-spirited, mildly prodigal grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) returns to town. There he's promptly wowed by another of the chorale's stars, Vi Rose's strictly reared daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer).

Despite his reputation as a wayward kid, and his taste for such dubious musical selections as a rap tune called "I'm 'n Luv (Wit a Stripper)," Randy proves himself, in most respects, a model teen.

Not only does his relationship with Olivia unfold in a respectful and restrained manner, but he also takes the opportunity to befriend Olivia's vulnerable brother, Walter (Dexter Darden), whose Asperger's syndrome renders him an outcast. Additionally, though Randy has a fistfight with a competitor for Olivia's affections, he later reconciles with the lad in an exemplary manner.

(With a kind of Andy Hardy, let's-put-on-a-show inevitability, all three of the aforementioned characters turn out to have musical gifts that are eventually deployed for the greater glory of God and the exultation of Pacashau's Divinity Church Choir.)

Though burdened with a difficult lifestyle—she's effectively separated, against her will, from her absent Army officer husband, Marcus (Jesse L. Martin), and works long hours as a nurse—Vi Rose's faith never falters. She gives eloquent expression to it both in no-nonsense dialogue and in song; her rendition of the traditional spiritual "Fix Me, Jesus" is one of the movie's emotional highlights.

Catholic viewers may be a bit put off to find Vi Rose, G.G. et al. eventually competing against a choir from "Our Lady of Perpetual Tears." Whether this conflation of two genuine Marian titles—Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the lesser-known Our Lady of Tears—is intended as a passing satire on Catholic devotions, or merely arises from unfamiliarity with them, is difficult to determine.

In terms of the broad patrimony of Christian faith and Gospel values, however, "Joyful Noise" is unapologetically, unabashedly affirmative to a degree rarely seen in contemporary Hollywood offerings.

The film contains a premarital situation, occasional sexual references and jokes, about a half-dozen crude expressions and some crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III— adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). 
<p>John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. </p><p>His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). </p><p>John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic. </p><p>The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus. </p><p>Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.

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