xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
"Joyful Noise" is an ungainly assembly of parts that don't fit, and the strange thing is that it makes no particular effort to please its target audience, which would seem to be lovers of gospel choirs. There's a scene toward the end set at a national gospel music competition that features a real gospel choir, and compared to them, our team seems like a hasty gathering of unmatched character types. Here are people we don't believe, with dialogue that sounds contrived and unconvincing.
The place: a Georgia town, deep in poverty. The characters: the Pacashau Sacred Divinity Choir. The occasion: Just as the choir leader dies of a heart attack, the annual gospel choir competition is approaching. Two strong women are in competition for the job of choir director. Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton). Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) gives Vi Rose the position, although G.G. is the widow of the former director and believes she should have inherited the honor.
Now pause a moment. Imagine a choir. Not a large choir, but smallish, with most of its members looking typecast. It's a small church, but has plenty of empty seats during services. (Cutting corners on extras?) It is completely racially integrated, which I believe is not that common even in modern Georgia. The film has almost no specifically spiritual content; the purpose of the choir is not to praise God but to win contests. The choir members date a lot, leading to a scene in which a black woman and an Asian man fall in love and sleep together. This is without the benefit of matrimony, although it must be admitted that the man seems to be quickly punished by the Almighty. (Later in the film, the woman meets another Asian man, and they exchange warm smiles as part of the clunky happy ending.)
Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, let it be said, are too much for one choir. They provide an excess of subplots. The Parton character has a grandson named Randy (Jeremy Jordan), who has been sent to stay with her after "getting in trouble" in New York. The Latifah character has a daughter, Olivia (Keke Palmer). Randy and Olivia fall instantly in love. Olivia is 16. Randy is a "teenager" who looks every bit as old as the actor, who is 26 and poised to play Clyde in a Broadway production of "Bonnie and Clyde." He and others were perhaps chosen by a casting director without a single thought about whether they seemed to belong in the same movie.