Starring: Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan, Kris Kristofferson
If Glee and Sister Act had a child it would probably look something like this. Latifah and Parton play Vi Rose and G.G. respectively – polar opposite women who are members of the same church choir. While Vi Rose is a hard working single mother of two ever since her husband enlisted in the army, G.G. is rich and frivolous and puts as much time into her appearance as Vi Rose does into her two jobs. When G.G’s choir director husband (Kristofferson) dies Vi Rose is named as his successor she favours the traditional style of gospel music that is also loved by the church Pastor. However, when the choir qualifies for the finals of the annual Joyful Noise competition G.G. and the rest of the choir think that she should embrace the more contemporary arrangements of G.G’s grandson Randy (Jordan), a previously wayward teen who has turned his life around since coming to live with his grandmother and who has his eye on Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Palmer).
The two women lock horns at every turn and Vi Rose is vehemently opposed to the blossoming relationship between Violet and Randy. However, when the Pastor bans Randy from performing with the choir and insists the group use traditional arrangements in the contest Vi Rose is forced to rethink her methods – particularly when she sees some of their competition in the final.
Latifah and Parton have an undeniable chemistry on screen and the musical numbers are as epic as you would expect with every member of the cast showing enormous talent. Even if you’re not into gospel music there are enough contemporary songs to sate you and the arrangements are well thought out and extremely catchy. Unfortunately the bits in between the music let this film down. The story is incredibly cliché driven – the “big town boy with attitude returns to small town where he falls for good girl but unfortunately their families don’t get on,” plot has been done to death and not even the addition of the music can disguise this fact. The script is also littered with cheesy one liners such as “people who are that wrapped up in themselves make very small presents”. The writer was obviously trying to inject some home spun wisdom into the dialogue but it just ends up cringe worthy and embarrassing.
Subplots about a rival for Olivia’s affections and Vi Rose’s sons Aspergers syndrome also fall flat and a scene where G.G. has a “flashback” to singing with her dead husband verges on high comedy rather than pathos – although given that Kristofferson is such a huge star and his character is killed off in the first five minutes of the film I can see why this was left in.
Overall this is a bit of a mish mash and doesn’t seem to know who it wants to appeal to. It’s too gospel heavy for many Glee type fans and too contemporary for fans of traditional gospel music. The story is weak with enormous plot holes and if it wasn’t for fantastic performances it would fall completely flat – unlike Dolly who is completely larger than life throughout. Some of the best moments in the film come when Vi Rose makes reference to G.G’s many enhancement surgeries, and these are played completely tongue in cheek. This is fun in parts but on the whole it is cheesier than a well aged cheddar. Dolly fans will love it though and won’t be disappointed in the least.